Grass growth: The country is divided in two based on grass growth.
Despite widespread rain on Wednesday, quantities that fell were low and the midlands, south and east are still very much in a soil moisture deficit, with grass growth rates affected.
Those in most other parts are faring much better and conditions for growth are close to perfect.
It can be very stressful worrying about a potential drought and how to deal with it.
However, farms are in a very good place, with plenty of feed about. No amount of worry will change the weather. All farmers can do is accept it and make the best decisions available to them.
First decision is to stop mowing/pre-mowing or topping. This really dries out the base of the sward and reduces regrowth. Maintain a 20- to 25-day rotation length by introducing more area to the grazing platform, such as bringing land destined for silage back into the rotation. If this is insufficient then go in early with extra supplement to hold the rotation length and average farm cover. This can be in the form of extra meal or good-quality silage.
Keep measuring grass every five to six days as the situation can change quickly, for better and worse. The target average farm cover is 170 to 180kg/cow, but farmers whose land is at risk of getting dry should be conservative and carry a higher cover if they have it. When cover starts going below 150kg/cow, farmers should be getting worried.
Accounts: Over the next few months most farmers will meet their accountant to review the 2020 farm accounts. Many will have big tax problems and the disparity between profit and cash will come home to roost. Some farmers will have to take out loans to pay tax, which sounds absurd but it happens. Capital allowances for many investments made in advance of quotas being removed are now over and more farmers are exposed to higher tax bills.
Resist any temptation to reduce stock values – this is a very bad approach as it will create a bigger tax problem down the line. New business structures such as incorporation or partnerships are likely to play an ever-increasing role on dairy farms. On profitable farms, regardless of scale, tax planning is crucial and paying for expert advice will be money well spent. The right person to give that advice is very often not the farm accountant.
Insurance: This week's Focus outlines some of the common pitfalls with farm insurance. The main issue seems to be with buildings being underinsured. In these cases the insurance company will deduct the size of the claim by how much it feels the building was underinsured by, even though the size of the claim might be within the insured value. Ensure underground slurry tanks are insured as part of the building as some companies only insure the above ground part of the structure. Check what is and what is not covered when comparing premiums. What is cheap on the day you write the cheque may come back to bite you the day you make a claim. Many dairy farms have installed new equipment such as milking parlours and automated calf feeders that may need to be added to the policy.