FARMER FOCUS: Weather poses huge challenge

As I sit here writing the rain is beating down and it’s around 6C outside. The weather for the past few weeks has been a tough environment for both man and beast, writes Thomas Steele.

In a “normal” year we would usually be taking our first-cut silage at the end of April/start of May. However, after a sharp east wind for a few days, what little grass we had has virtually disappeared, and fields now look like someone has been going mad with Round-up. At the minute it’s looking like reduced yields for this very important forage crop. Hopefully with some moisture and heat, growing should start to pick up some pace.

On the plus side, we have managed to get the low yielders back out to grass and also quite a lot of the youngstock. This has helped ease the silage situation, which was vanishing at an alarming rate when everything was fully housed.

With the weather being such a problem, any small dry spell has to be utilised to its full potential. This happened last week when just about every tractor available on the farm was being used to spread fertiliser and slurry, as well as plough and complete drainage work. With early mornings, late nights and a lot of diesel, we managed to do in one week what would have normally taken two. Thankfully, most of the workload has now been caught up with again, but warmer temperatures will be needed before any maize is drilled.

We are currently doing trial work with AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute) to look at both delayed and rapid concentrate feeding for the first 30 days of lactation, along with a low protein-based diet. Figures are collected to examine the effects on milk yields throughout the lactation, as well as any benefits regarding fertility and cow condition. Hopefully the results should make interesting reading over the next few months.


Thomas Steele milks 450 Holstein Friesian cows on a 263ha farm in Co Down, Northern Ireland. He was 2012 Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year

More on this topic

More articles from Thomas Steele

Read more from our other livestock farmer focus writers

Farmers Weekly Awards 2022

Enter or nominate now