As I write, rain is bouncing at the backdoor and the cows have been housed for the night for the first time since they went to grass full-time a month ago (last year they didn’t spend a night under a roof until late October).
Warm, damp conditions have resulted in super grass growth rates. However, deteriorating ground conditions mean that cows cannot be grazed hard, back-fencing will be required and wet nights will be spent inside.
I have found myself impulsively checking my weather apps every hour in the delusional hope that there may be an opportunity to harvest our first cut. Our traditional DIY silage activities require at least four consecutively dry days to get the grass in.
It is possible that for two years we have been spoiled with perfect silage weather and this year is merely the resumption of normal service. However, I will do my best to remain optimistic and continue to look forward to sun and caffeine-filled silage days.
Despite not having an affinity for machinery, I do enjoy buckraking, particularly in the evening. That is not just because it gives a perfect excuse to avoid the latest instalment of Bridgerton, but also because from the top of our main silo, you get a great view over much of the agricultural activity of north Antrim. It is a viewpoint which, in the past, has all too often been ruined by torrential downpours on the windscreen.
Irrespective of my lament about current grazing conditions, it is still very satisfying to have all suitable stock back to grass. At a time of rising concentrate prices, it has allowed us to manage costs. Most of our dairy youngstock and beef cattle are no longer receiving supplementary feeding, and milking cows have moved from a 19% to a 16% protein ration.
Few people have done more to improve dairy herd profitability on the island of Ireland as those involved in researching and promoting the benefits of extending the grazing season.
I admire the passion of its advocates, particularly those committed to a spring calving model. However, if someone from outside the industry was to examine the fervent manner in which the principles of the practice are outlined, they could be forgiven for thinking that they were referring to something akin to a cult.
They will treat the plate-meter as an all-knowing prophet that should never be questioned, and hold in reverence those cows outlined in sacred Moorepark research papers
For example, true proponents will insist that you give up all frivolous material possessions. Instead, all you need is an ultra-basic, open-sided parlour (when exposed to a strong north wind in February it will freeze your blood) a 75HP tractor, a fertiliser sower, miles of electric fence, a quad, a dog and a mobile to phone a contractor to do almost all machinery work.
Everything else they will tell you is only a distraction from your focus, which is growing and grazing grass.
They will treat the plate-meter as an all-knowing prophet that should never be questioned, and hold in reverence those cows outlined in sacred Moorepark research papers.
Milking any other type of cow is an abomination. And rather than having one day a week of rest, they insist that you will have two months of ‘rest’ while all cows are dry. While our faming conditions in north Antrim mean that I won’t be joining this band of believers, I do fully recognise that there are many aspects of their practice that could benefit our business.