Despite heavy rain over the last week, ground is holding up well. By now all farmers should have started their last grazing rotation, meaning the paddocks being grazed now won’t be grazed again until next year.
The deadline for spreading slurry in the south is this Friday, with the closed period starting on Saturday 8 October.
Farmyard manure can be spread until 31 October and soiled water can be spread until 21 December. Slurry can be spread in Northern Ireland until 15 October.
It’s important to have a plan for closing paddocks. This is more important than ever as farmers try to protect clover. We know that clover likes light and because light is scarce over the winter, it is at particular risk.
Therefore, avoiding high over-winter covers is important because they will shade out even more light.
The more paddocks that have clover on the farm the harder it becomes to protect it, as you need to have some high covers over winter if you want to have grass next spring.
Another important consideration is soil type and grazing infrastructure. You don’t want to have a lot of grass on a wet field with poor access.
I’ve been on farms over the past week where there are issues with lameness and where roadways (or parts of them) are poor. There is a direct link between lameness, cow flow and roadways.
Roadways need constant work and you need an annual budget for upgrades and repairs. I would suggest that 50% of farm roadways (those closest to the parlour with most traffic) need to be upgraded every three years, with the other half upgraded every six or seven years.
The ideal stone for cow roadways should have a flat surface and should break down over time to give a smooth surface.
Even where a quarry has suitable stone, where in the quarry it is extracted from can make a difference, with stone from deep in the quarry less suitable than that near the surface.
Where it is difficult to get suitable stone, or where good stone won’t hold such as slopes, many farmers have tried using second-hand astro-turf. Cost depends on quality, but in general anybody that has purchased astro-turf doesn’t regret it.
Fear and anxiety over electricity costs means many are looking at solar and other options to reduce exposure to high prices. In general, solar PV will reduce the amount of imported electricity on a dairy farm by about 30%.
Before even looking at solar, farmers need to make sure they are on the lowest possible tariff and that they are using the least amount of electricity possible.
Night rate is half the cost of day rate, so water should be heated at night. Plate coolers are a huge help at reducing the work of power hungry compressor units on bulk tanks.
There are a few companies that specialise in helping farmers and other businesses to find the best tariff to be on.
It’s not just the price per unit that is important when comparing prices, the standing charges have a big impact too. The key thing is to shop around and switch provider every year.