Cow problems: Farmers and vets are reporting higher incidences of cow-related health problems with digestive upsets, bloat and respiratory issues more common than usual. Low pre-grazing covers, lush grass and wet weather are all factors. There are always challenges and this too will pass. Some roughage in the diet may be a good idea where pre-grazing yields are very low. Wet weather means cows aren’t getting the same utilisation as normal and so the round length is faster than it should be. This increases the risk of grass deficits and makes it harder to manage grass. There is no easy solution but more regular walking and measuring will mean earlier decision making. With poor cleanouts in this and previous rounds, some corrective action will likely be needed this year. The best option is to cut silage on poor quality paddocks but some topping may be necessary this season too.

Reseeds: Grass seed sown over the last few weeks is getting off to a good start, with plenty of moisture and soil temperatures rising. Watch for signs of pests. Slugs are a big problem in gardens this year so are likely to be a big problem in crops too. They will attack from the headlands out, so keep an eye on recently sown swards and apply slug pellets where there is evidence of slug damage. Crops sown with a slot seeder should have slug pellets applied with the seed anyway. Leatherjackets are a different pest – they attack new shoots and it can be anywhere in the field. The only control against leatherjackets is rolling for a firm seedbed. Frit fly will be a risk when the crop is more established. Just because the seed is sown, it doesn’t mean it can be forgotten about until its time to spray.

Silage: While some farmers took the opportunity to cut some silage over the last few weeks, the main first cut will be commencing around now. With lower than normal grass growth recently, there is a high chance that nitrate levels could be high and this may affect the preservation. With good growing conditions now, there will be high uptake on nitrogen later than normal and this could coincide with planned cutting date. The key points are;

  • Sugar levels in the grass should be 3% or higher at cutting. These will be highest in the evening.
  • Nitrates levels should ideally be less than 600ppm and not more than 800ppm. A good wilt will overcome high nitrates but this may not be possible in broken weather.
  • The only effective additives that should be used in bad weather is either molasses or acid – neither of which are very common now. Most additives being sold currently are innoculants, which make already good silage even better, as opposed to making bad silage good.
  • Those that cut first cut in late May will have a higher yielding second cut and produce more silage overall than those who take a late first cut and a smaller second cut.
  • Keep farm safety front and centre during this busy time on farms.
  • Make sure all effluent is gathered and stored.