It feels wrong this year with so much grass about on the farm before there’s any sign of leaves appearing on the hedges or trees in Cumbria. As we approach the middle of April, with temperatures falling back from the heatwave that was March to around normal and grass growth steadying up a little, it’s difficult to decide whether to fully finish the first grazing round or start the second.
Magic day was at least two or even three weeks early this year in Cumbria. Currently at home the average cover on the farm is 2,200kg/dm/ha – at least 400 more than the norm at this time of year, which consequently means cows going into covers approaching 3,000kg/dm/ha at the end of the first round.
However, the girls are milking well, averaging close to 30 litres, which translates to almost 2.4kg of milk solids each day. The challenge in the short term will be to keep solids production up there for as long as we can, and vital to this is delivering them with the best grazing possible in the coming months.
The decision to retain the late-calving cows at home and send all the calving heifers to the new unit is proving a little frustrating, not just because this year’s batch, born in 2010, were easily the best we’ve ever bred. All by DNA sires from New Zealand, 2012 calving could have been over in 10 weeks, instead we’ll be still at it until at least week 14. Heifer calf numbers are looking reasonable and we may even have a surplus on the new farm, so within a couple of years we should be back on target – well, unless something else comes along!
Robert Craig, 41, farms a 160ha all-grass dairy unit in north-east Cumbria. A passionate grassland farmer, Robert aims to maximise profit while ensuring a balanced and enjoyable life. Robert is also current Cumbria NFU chairman.