Clover safe: I continue to get calls and hear stories of farmers finding cows dead due to bloat, even after taking what was considered appropriate precautions. The problem is greatest in extremely high clover paddocks and, in some cases, farmers are being advised to spray out some of the clover using non-clover-safe sprays at one third to one half of the recommended rate. That is in extreme situations where clover is completely dominating the sward. In most cases, preventative methods such as giving cows a very small break, using 12-hour breaks, adding a fibre source such as silage or straw to the diet or using bloat oil in the water should suffice. Mornings tend to be higher risk because there is often a dew on the grass and low dry matter is a risk factor. As covers get stronger with rising pre-grazing yields and more fibre in the sward, the risk should reduce.

Meanwhile, I am hearing that there is a scarcity of some clover-safe sprays available for reseeds. Apparently, there has been a delay in a shipment and it is not due until late September. In the meantime, reseeds with high dock infestations will need to be sprayed, regardless of clover. Eagle is clover-safe, but only licensed for established swards. Annual weeds can be grazed or cut out and won’t come back. Nettles usually appear in clumps and can be spot-sprayed with non-clover-safe spray.

Lime: The year is shoving on and because the last two months have been wet, many farmers haven’t been thinking about lime. With drier weather on the way and second-cut silage cut on most farms, there will be opportunities to get lime spread. Remember, farmers in a derogation that have soil samples showing lime is required are obliged to spread it. Ideally, lime should be spread at a maximum rate of about 2t/acre and spread on fields just after being grazed or cut. Avoid spreading ordinary urea or slurry on fields for the rest of the year after spreading lime. Wait a week after spreading urea or slurry before spreading lime. There is information on pages 30 and 31 on the new national fertiliser database. The system is relatively straightforward. Anyone buying fertiliser after 1 September needs to be registered.

Milk prices: The fall in milk prices is continuing, with most processors dropping milk price for June and the early announcers are back in July also. The net result is that milk payments are well below farmers’ expectations and the outlook for the next six months is for no improvement.

It really is a case of re-evaluating expenditure. Feeding high rates of meal, planning third cuts of silage and reseeding all need to be questioned this autumn. Similarly, capital projects such as building upgrades may need to be postponed, particularly if they are budgeted based on expected cashflows.

Many farmers will have substantial tax bills to pay for last year and bigger than normal preliminary tax for the current year. Getting into the mindset of being in a low milk price with low margin will take some adjustment, but the sooner you get there, the better the outcome will be.