Farmer Focus: We might sell stores unless grass improves

The first lot of April-born lambs have now been sold and we are pleased to have hit the market while the price is still strong.

Usually by the time we come to sell, the NSL (new season lamb) trade has dropped due to the increased supply, but this year it has stayed firm and hopefully it will remain so.

You may recall that we had decided to grow some maize for the first time.

See also: Advice on dealing with this year’s variable maize crop

We had our doubts if it would even establish due to us being 850ft (259m) above sea level, but thought we would take the risk.

Fortunately, it has proved worth the punt and has surpassed all of our expectations – chest high on the 4th of July and a healthy, even crop. It is looking like it will soon begin to tassel. Beginners’ luck maybe.

We have heavy soils with good levels of organic matter, which must help. It will be interesting to see cob yields and sizes in due course.

Grass growth has stunted at both farms so we may be a little short on grass before long if we don’t get any further rainfall.

Standing straw prices are very strong in our area, as is demand. This is one of the disadvantages of farming on the Welsh border.

We have purchased some fields of standing crop but not enough to see us through the winter. If grass growth doesn’t pick up there won’t be spare silage about and, with straw being the price it is, the first tweak we may look at this winter is to cut the store cattle numbers back.

We have made the decision to lamb our ewes a little earlier at home next year so that there are minimal clashes with the farm we contract manage.

Theirs will continue to lamb in April/May whereas we will try to focus on March and early April. We found this year a stretch on labour and resources with both places lambing and our cows calving simultaneously.

We were fortunate this year that our vet student ended up staying on for 12 weeks as opposed to two – one benefit of lockdown, I suppose.

Read more about Monmouthshire livestock farmer Livy Braid