Normal service has been restored on the grass front at last, with growth and quality excellent for the last few weeks. Cows are responding well and milk yield is holding up into the autumn. We should have enough rain built up in the soil for the next few weeks now, so we can enjoy the fine weather forecast this week again.
We have another small cut of silage to make as soon as it bulks up, but other than that its all systems go on building up a bank of grass into the autumn. Hopefully, we can extend the grazing season as far as possible into the autumn and make up some ground lost during the first half of the year.
The workload should decrease for the rest of the year now to some extent. The bulk of the work is done, with cows in-calf and most of the winter feed in. One of the biggest jobs will be sorting through stock numbers before the winter to see what goes where.
We have enough cubicles and slurry storage for all the cows that we will calve next spring, but we might sell a small batch of in-calf heifers before the winter to keep numbers right.
Some cull cows might also have to go into slatted pens if they are not finished before the busy winter period. It might be as easy to go to the mart with them if they are in good enough condition, especially with the price of concentrates where they are.
Some of our spare time for the next few weeks will unfortunately be taken up trying to find solutions for, or alternatives to, some of the new regulations being put forward by both the nitrates regulations and the new Basic Payment Scheme rules.
There is understandably a lot of negativity and frustration around these proposed regulations and the associated costs or investment that farmers would incur on the back of them. A lot of farmers have invested heavily in their farmyards in the last few years, abiding by all current regulations with those projects.
These new proposals will render some of that work obsolete or insufficient now, just a couple of years later, which is very difficult for farmers who made that investment in good faith to face back into so quickly.
In some cases, the new regulations, if forced through, could cost farmers hundreds of thousands to sort out.
Most of these investments were made with medium to long-term banking arrangements backing them and the first few years of those arrangements are usually the time to batten down the hatches and get the farm up to full production and back on an even keel before facing into any other significant projects.
This will be very difficult for farmers to digest and at a time when we have very little bank competition in the country. It will not be easy, in a lot of cases, to get the additional funding needed to comply with these new proposals, with a lot of extra stress and workload the end result.
It is very much a stick rather than a carrot approach this time as well, with very little grant aid on the table to help fund this additional investment or soften the blow in any way.
There might be a better way – if additional slurry storage could be supported by the Department of Agriculture, it might be easier for farmers to make that investment.
Unfortunately, as with everything, we have arrived at this juncture because of the actions of the few people that continue to flaunt the current regulations, and we can assume that they will continue to flaunt the new regulations as much, so we might not see enough improvements to water quality etc, even if these new standards are brought in. Similar to some sporting codes, we might be better served ensuring that current regulations are fully enforced before we start to add any new rules.