We have had a very hot couple of weeks here on the farm. The ground we were busy preparing for spring crops, as mentioned in my last blog, has now established and is looking surprisingly well.
That being said, it is absolutely crazy how one of our wettest winters has turned to a summer of fearing a nationwide drought. The lack of rain will inevitably limit the growth of crops and grass throughout the UK.
However, we have now completed around 150 acres of our first silage cut. This is essential feed for our cows when they return to their sheds in October, for the winter months.
Fortunately all of our silage fields are within close proximity of our farm, meaning we can justify using a forage wagon to transport the grass, as opposed to using a large self-propelled forager and a number of tractor and trailers, which massively reduces labour costs.
The silage process takes time – we cut, partially dry and rake the grass into large rows before loading it into the front of the forage wagon, where the grass is chopped to roughly 35mm pieces. This is the ideal length for easy digestion and rumen health, helping to increase milk quality which is something we are constantly striving towards for our cheese contract.
Once the grass has been cut it is then transported back to yard where it is pushed out of the back of the wagon into a big pile (silage clamp) and compressed tightly to remove oxygen and start the fermentation process or ‘pickling the grass’.
Once the clamp is secured tightly it must be sealed to stop oxygen ingress. The silage is covered in a large black plastic sheet and weighed down to keep compression. It is left to rest for a minimum of four weeks and then fed to the cows when they are no longer grazing outside.
We aim to get four cuts from our silage fields to ensure we are not short of feed for the animals over the winter, however this is heavily weather dependant – keep praying for rain!Another summer job that we have recently completed has been the annual sheep shearing. As the temperature has rarely dropped below 20 degrees during the day, our woolly sheep were very relieved to have had a visit from our local sheep shearer – James. Unlike cows, our sheep are unable to shed their wool, meaning it has to be done manually to keep them cool and healthy.
Farmers have undoubtedly made a huge contribution the nationwide effort to keep the country fed during the last few months. However, despite slowly seeing the immediate effects of COVID-19 slowing and lockdown restrictions easing, we still have an extremely foggy outlook as to what the future holds for our agricultural industry.
The expectation is that demand for dairy will return in the second half of the year, albeit on a gradual basis, meaning there may be some improvements in prices for those who have suffered losses during this time. Nevertheless, as you can see from what we have been up to over the last few weeks, the show must go on.