Alan Montgomery runs
a 300ha (750-acre) mixed
farm near Downpatrick, Co
Down, Northern Ireland.
As well as cereals and
potatoes, the farm supports
a 130-cow suckler herd, 800
breeding ewes and
1000 store lambs
ALONG with many parts of the UK, we have been enjoying the best autumn weather for many years. Recent grass growth has been well above the seasonal norm and, with ground conditions still firm, utilisation is excellent.
Potatoes are in store and drilling was completed by the second week of November. September reseeds are off to a flying start and some will be ready for a light grazing by ewes and lambs in January.
The 60kg/acre (24kg/ha) of nitrogen top dressing in mid September of canola – forage rape – should produce sufficient growth for the early lambing flock. So why do I have this feeling of impending doom?
Half the calves have been weaned and housed. We were able to turn cows back outdoors to an area of rough grazing. Younger calves will remain with their mothers until the weather breaks. Cows are being supplemented with excellent quality oaten straw and a mineral.
First cut grass silage analysis, apart from having a low dry matter, is good (see panel). Since moving to a contractor several years ago silage quality has improved enormously. If contractors would resist taking short cuts through cereal crops we would make serious progress.
I have been digesting my copy of The Vision for the Future of the Agri-Food Industry (N Ireland). Its observations and recommendations are all embracing and far-reaching, but the real test will be in their implementation by all parties involved.
This farms long-term future has never been discussed in detail with my two sons who are currently at university. But I will take the liberty of providing some early answers to farmers weeklys Next Generation Survey from my younger son.
He does not see himself entering full-time farming for another 5-8 years. The advantages of farming he lists are having responsibility, decision making and being his own boss. Disadvantages would be poor pay and unsociable hours.
My son is studying a financial course and is not influenced by the recent farming crisis. He lists his fathers attitude towards his job as happy.
As this will be my last article until January, I wish everyone a peaceful Christmas, with better things to come in 2002. Heres hoping. *
Canola – forage rape – should provide plenty of feed for Alan Montgomerys early lambing flock.
Grass silage analysis
• DM 21% • D-value 76 • pH 3.7 • ME 12.1 • Crude protein 13.1% • Ammonia 7%