Now is the time to be planning for sowing Kale or forage crops if you want to winter young stock or cows on Kale next winter. Yields will be hit if planting date goes by the middle of June.

You can plough and till the field, or some farmers will spray off a silage crop before cutting and direct drill the seed into the aftermath and then plough and reseed with grass next spring when Kale is finished.

Aim for a field that drys out quickly and this will ease management next winter. Kale requires extra labour during the winter months, moving fences and checking stock daily, and it isn’t for the faint hearted – especially when weather conditions are challenging. You also need good fences and a strong electric fence to make sure it is grazed properly.

It’s a good idea to place a line of bales of silage in the field at sowing time and then the feeder can be moved with the fence at feeding time in winter. Animals also need access to 1ha of a lie-back area in order to meet cross compliance requirements.

Sowing rate depends on the sowing method – if sowing via broadcast method, sow 3-3.5kg/acre and if direct drilling, sow at 2-2.5kg/acre.

Kale requires high fertility levels and optimum pH is 6-6.7. You will need to spread 3 bags/acre of 10:10:20 at sowing time and top dress with 2 bags CAN/acre later.

Autumn heifers and bulls

Every year we hear of disasters where heifer weanlings sold through marts turn up in-calf and have to be returned to the owner along with a bill for scanning and feeding, and maybe a vet bill for delivering the calf. Even worse if there is a knackery bill to be settled.

Some finishers have stopped buying heifers because of this added hassle. Weanling heifers can reach puberty quite early if they are gaining weight quickly and on a high plane of nutrition. Autumn born heifer calves and bull calves should be split up at this stage to avoid any unwanted pregnancies. Separating these animals at this stage also means you can feed the bull calves while keeping heifer calves on good grazing. Take note of any heats, and if in doubt get your vet or scanning operator to scan to be sure.

You need all the customers you can get when your animal enters the ring, so make sure you keep them. Some marts still offer a scanning service for heifers, but this will only pick up pregnancies from 30 days onwards.

Health and safety

With a good week of weather forecast, next week will be a very busy week on a lot of farms with silage cutting in full swing across the country.

The following weekend is a bank holiday, which will mean a lot more traffic on the roads and children at home. Take care where young children are around a yard, and especially if they are visitors unaware of the dangers. If silage is taking place, keep them as far away from the yard as possible.

Be sure to get sufficient rest, as accidents are more likely to happen when you are tired or lose concentration. Take some time to cut any verges back around gates coming out onto public roads to increase visibility.