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
A PRIL is a month that is best forgotten with rain on virtually every day, making cattle turnout impossible on our farm.
With straw running out in the second week and silage in the third week, the last 14 days of this month have proved to be expensive. It seems all that was needed to stop it raining was to turn the calendar over into May, which changed the weather overnight.
The ground has dried remarkably quickly, allowing us to get all the cattle turned out by May 4. This is always a highlight of the year as it marks the end of winter and the routine chores of feeding, scraping and bedding. It is an absolute joy to see the cows and calves gallop across the fields with even the oldest cows kicking their heels in delight.
Field work during April was also a non-starter with work falling seriously behind schedule, especially spraying winter cereals, resulting in our crop consultant having to rewrite spray recommendations three times. Two fields of winter barley had awns emerging before the first and now the only, fungicide was applied. Whether yield will be affected remains to be seen.
Last year the fashion in the lambing shed was jeans and T-shirts, this year thermals and waterproofs made a comeback in a big way. The weather has undoubtedly taken its toll in lambing percentage, as there has been a higher mortality post turnout than normal, although the ewes have milked well at grass, lambs have had to use a bigger proportion of that milk supply to maintain body temperature and therefore struggled to maintain growth rates. Hopefully, with better weather and the abundance of grass we now have, they will regain some of the lost ground.
The late April ritual of IACS form filling was delayed this year until May while we acquired some extra grass keep. With July being the earliest possible date we could sell store cattle because of TB restrictions, 43 acres have been purchased locally with grazing for cattle until the end of October and sheep thereafter until the end of the year, with the option to cut once if so desired. All this land has gone on the IACS form as forage and will bring the stocking rate to 2LSU/ha. Cash-flow forecast has been seriously disrupted by lack of income from store cattle and the extra expenditure for grass keep. A meeting with the bank manager is now planned for June.
Thoughts are now turning to silage making with 40 acres ready to cut at any time, while 43 acres of the rented grass keep will be cut in June at a mature stage, to provide plenty of bulk for the cows during the winter and to avoid another shortage.
With better weather and more grass, lambs will regain some of the ground lost during recent poor weather, hopes Kevin Daniel.