Kevin Daniel has a mixed
lowland holding near
Launceston, Cornwall. The
65ha (160 acres) farm and
20ha (50 acres) of rented
ground supports 70
Simmental cross suckler
cows, 380 Border Leicester
cross Suffolk ewes and 28ha
(70 acres) arable
REGULAR readers of this column may remember that we sheared half the ewes this winter, eight weeks before lambing.
My original aim was to increase the size of lambs born and the milkiness of the ewes. This has been partly successful. Shorn ewes have definitely produced bigger lambs, particularly those carrying multiples. Unfortunately lack of time and a suitable set of scales has not allowed any weighings to give an accurate comparison.
Milkiness of the ewes seems less clear cut, with milking ability dependent on the individual ewe, regardless of its fleece length. My hunch is that shorn ewes have, on average, lambed with more milk, especially as they had to feed bigger lambs.
Several other benefits of winter shearing have been observed. It has been possible to monitor ewe condition without having to handle them in a race, and ewes have been more content, especially on warm, muggy days when respiration rates of unshorn ewes increase. Also, pens seem less crowded with more room at the troughs, etc.
No lambs from shorn ewes developed watery mouth, although six were lost from unshorn ewes. No shorn ewes were on their back this spring, although four unshorn ewes died in this way.
Obviously, we have also experienced some disadvantages. The first problem was that as shearing took place before scanning, some baron ewes were shorn and realised a lower price when sold as culls.
One ewe aborted two days after shearing – probably due to stress and with no wool to help handle shorn ewes, those needing attention at lambing have at times proved a challenge to restrain. A shepherds crook with a longer handle will be on the shopping list for next year.
The two main disadvantages of winter shearing are probably yet to come. First, our fly control policy must alter and will cost more money as ewes carry heavier fleeces through the summer. Second, I am concerned that ewes with full fleeces in the autumn and early winter may get on their back.
As we occasionally get summer-shorn ewes on their back at this time of the year, I am considering shearing twice a year.
While the value of the wool will only cover shearing costs, the saving in time from not having to check sheep twice a day and an end to inevitable deaths may cancel out the lost revenue. *
John Martin farms in
partnership with his parents
on the Ards Peninsula 15
miles south of Belfast. The
65ha (160-acre) Gordonall
farm and 16ha (40 acres) of
rented land carry 400
Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a
small flock of Suffolks and
40 spring calving sucklers.
About 20ha (50 acres) of
barley is grown for feed and
IN mid-April we had so much grass that it was almost an embarrassment, but by the end of May the shortage of forage was the source of our red faces. True, everyone else was in the same boat, but try telling that to 60 suckler cows, 100 ewes and lambs et al.
The cold spell in early May followed by dry, warm weather led to a standstill on grass recovery. As a result, pasture has been unable to match grazing demands. The good news is that at first-cut silage on May 28/29 – a week earlier than usual – the material was so dry that we have yet to see any effluent from the silo.
Whether it was good luck or good guidance, the rain returned the night after we finished the silage to allow the 150kg/acre of Sulphur Cut to be washed in, followed by a light coat of slurry. The grazing area received 100kg/acre of 27.5% nitrogen to encourage things along again, and we also snatched a few big bales of silage from a couple of acres which may be used to buffer feed cows if we run short during the summer.
Our Limousin bull, along with two others hired in for the occasion, were turned out with cows and yearling heifers just before the end of May to try to repeat this years tight calving pattern in March.
The ewes were all shorn on May 11 with no difficulties, so the upside-down sheep patrols have now ceased!
Lambs have grown quickly of late and 140, surplus to our butchers requirements, were sold through a local lamb marketing group. This is something of a departure for us, but the results seem promising with bonuses for the desired weight and grade.
A diversion in the coming months will be the EU Sheep Advisory Committee, to which I have been appointed to represent CEJA – The European Young Farmers organisation. The UK is well represented and this is a tremendous opportunity for young farmers but also a big responsibility to help secure our future.
Meanwhile, my Northern Ireland Farmer Focus predecessor, Will Taylor, has been elected president of the Ulster Farmers Union. This is no easy task in the current climate and I wish him well in his work. *
John Glover currently milks
65 cows plus followers on a
40ha (100-acre) county
council holding near
having recently moved from
another 20ha (51-acre)
county council farm
DO THESE contractors know what trouble they cause? We cut grass for silage on May 15, and for two days after that we had a barrage of questions from our six year old. When will they come? What colour trailers have they got? Who drives the forage harvester? And whats an Ag-bag?
We picked up the grass on the Sunday with 35 acres sealed into the Ag-bag in about four hours. The bag itself was cut off at 135ft and is 11ft in diameter, holding an estimated 200t of silage at 28% dry matter.
As I had no clamp to sheet, I had top dressed the aftermaths before milking – it was the easiest silage making Ive done.
The extra cost of the Ag-bag was about £6/t, or about £35/acre, hopefully its claimed reduction in wastage will go some way towards recouping this.
As grass ferments it produces gas and a small hole, about the size of a fifty pence coin, was left in the bag for this gas to escape.
The next morning the bag had blown up and gas was coming out of the hole with a pressure similar to blowing onto your hand. This carried on for four days and must represent a significant loss of energy from the crop.
Once fermentation had slowed the hole was sealed and the loose bag, where it was cut off the machine was weighted down with tyres. Then the whole bag was covered with a net for bird protection.
Our maize was drilled by May 3 and is now well up and will be sprayed for weed control any time. We usually spray a pre-emergence herbicide, but this year the crop was through before the contractor arrived to spray it.
As the soil has dried rapidly since the crop was sown the sprays residual effect may have been lost anyway, it will be interesting to see the control we achieve post emergence.
We are growing Melody on 19 acres, 18 acres of Aviso, and 5 acres of Sophy. Aviso seems the most vigorous at this early stage, although the Sophy has the greatest weed competition with fat hen, which results from heavy dressings of manure over the last two winters. *
Louis Baugh and his wife
farm 186ha (460 acres) at
Neatishead Hall and 91ha
(225 acres) at Beech Farm
near Norwich in Norfolk.
About 100 autumn calving
Holstein Friesian cows and
followers are grazed on
Broads ESA marshes with
forage from Italian ryegrass
I RECENTLY visited the Czech Republic. An attractive country belying the idea of backward, inefficient agriculture.
After the fall of communism the land was returned to its original owners, farmed by private co-operatives, many of which have recently converted to shareholding companies.
The major problems facing Czech agriculture are the lack of cash for reinvestment, working capital and the loss of former Eastern Bloc markets. Agreements have been made where little if any rent or dividends will be paid over the next five years, allowing surplus funds to be reinvested.
The interest rate is 20%, with the possibility of a 50% government grant on loans. Overdraft facilities were limited with working capital secured by delayed or structured payment for inputs.
The Czech Republic is self-sufficient in food and only requires two-thirds of the food it produces. The balance has to compete for limited markets or be exported unsubsidised onto the world market at prices below the cost of production.
This has caused rationalisation of the dairy industry by 55% in five years, and sugar beet growers had their tonnage cut by 17% this year.
The milk price is 15-16p/litre with Holstein bloodlines replacing the traditional dual-purpose breed and giving up to 7000 litres.
Cows are tethered and housed all year in traditional buildings, which are gradually being converted to cubicles.
Maize silage, barn dried lucerne, pressed pulp and cereals, with wheat costing them £80/t, are fed, making a high dry matter mix.
Labour use appeared inefficient, with one unit employing 17 staff for 240 cows, however, average wages of £2500-£3000 a year means labour cost rather than numbers is more relevant.
A concern for UK dairy farmers, must be the unanimous opinion of Czech farmers that future EU membership is the solution to their problems.
On the home front much time has been spent on the once in a lifetime exercise of realigning the farm ownership, buying out half the family. The life and value of milk quota pose the biggest problem. *
One of the disadvantages of winter shearing is that sheep are more difficult to catch and restrain with no wool, says Kevin Daniel.
Pasture growth during May has been unable to match the grazing demand of John Martins stock.
John Glover cut 35 acres of silage and Ag-bagged it within four hours.
The milk price in the Czech Republic is just 15-16p/litre with a 55% cut in the industry over the past five years, as Louis Baugh found out on a recent visit.