When I first heard Balmoral Show had been postponed until late September I remarked that it would give us a chance to get the third cut in before this focal point of the agricultural calendar.
We have never had our first cut harvested before the traditional date in May.
Given recent frosts and the resulting poor grass growth, in my more pessimistic moments I have wondered if there will be a decent first cut by the revised date.
Roller stripes are still visible in some silage fields. While cows are at grazing day and night, until a fortnight ago they were receiving a supplementary TMR during milking in an attempt to slow down the rotation.
While grass growth has been slow, the dry conditions have made it easier for cows to clean out paddocks
This is normally a time when we would be taking grazing ground out of the rotation for baling – that won’t be happening for the time being.
However, dry conditions during April have allowed us to get wet corners drained, our modest arable acreage sown and reseeding completed. And while grass growth has been slow, the dry conditions have made it easier for cows to clean out paddocks.
Despite improvements to milk prices, I am still focused on maximizing milk produced from grazed grass, and I do not intend feeding for marginal litres.
I remember a dairy adviser remarking to our dairy development group that “when milk prices increase you just find more expensive ways to produce milk.”
We don’t have to look too far for that, given considerable increases in concentrate price in recent weeks.
Three weeks ago we completed a clear TB test, and it is the first time in almost a decade that we have had a full calendar year without a reactor.
Regardless, like all too many farmers in NI I fear every TB test as I know all too well the economic and emotional realities of a herd breakdown.
We cannot accept another situation where such a programme is yet again kicked further down the road
That is why I sincerely hope and pray that the current political upheaval at Stormont (such as calls to bring down the institution) does not hinder the implementation of a TB control plan brought forward by Minister Poots.
As frustrated livestock farmers, we need a new TB strategy. We cannot accept another situation where such a programme is yet again kicked further down the road, with farmers considered collateral damage in a wider political failure (as happened when Stormont collapsed in 2017).
To continue on the political theme, I am deeply troubled by Clare Bailey’s Climate Change Private Member’s Bill that seeks to set a net-zero target for greenhouse emissions by 2045.
Such a target cannot be achieved even by cutting NI’s beef and dairy sector by 50%. The bill simply does not consider the economic impact that this would have on our farming industry.
It must be made clear that this legislation will do nothing to improve environmental sustainability and may in fact worsen it
Four out of five executive parties are in support of this highly dangerous piece of legislation, and between them they attract a considerable amount of support from the farming community.
When politicians damage our businesses by supporting arrogant, ignorant and misinformed, virtue-signalling legislation, we as an industry must send them a message that we cannot be expected to support them at the ballot box.
It must be made clear that this legislation will do nothing to improve environmental sustainability and may in fact worsen it, as it will outsource our carbon footprint from food production to less carbon-efficient countries. The carbon footprint for NI beef is 2.5 times lower than the global average.
Overall Stormont has performed outstandingly in how it has managed COVID-19 and how it has administered a vaccination campaign, and for this it deserves a great amount of credit. Such achievements were only made possible through politicians working in cooperation with experts based on the scientific facts.
Through collaborating with those with a proper understanding of environmental science in relation to agriculture, and also other key farming stakeholders, it is possible to deliver properly informed policy relating to Climate Change.
This will lead to solutions that protect the viability of our industry, the nation’s food security, while also delivering better environmental outcomes than that currently proposed by the Clare Bailey Bill.