Here we are, halfway through the winter. Christmas round the corner and, dare I say it, the silage clamp is still fairly full.
Let’s hope we don’t get a late spring like last year, when we had to buy all the feed in all through March. The diet at the moment is grass silage, brewers' grains, fodder beet and a small amount of clover silage.
We had to cut the clover silage back. We also have some maize in the clamp ready for the new year. When we open the clamp, we plan to reduce and take out the fodder beet.
Silage just isn't up to scratch
I feel the cows could produce another three litres, but am told this is a problem nationally - the silage just isn’t up to scratch.
I try to instil into the farm staff that in a normal year we could achieve these extra three litres, which I call free litres, which cost now more than improved management skills.
This is better management of cutting, wilting, ensiling and sheeting at silage time.
We try to do a hundred acres a day and have two loading shovels on the clamp to ensure positive compaction.
But sheeting up is generally a late-night job and unless the contracting gang stay on and help, it is a job that can easily be skimped.
Needless to say, if they do stay on, I pay them handsomely - bearing in mind all the time, an extra litre a cow all winter is a lot of money.
Of course, silage brings us round to the price of fertiliser - so many questions, what to buy, when to buy it and how much to pay.
I told my feed rep about a farmer I know who bought 800t last May and at current prices saved himself £250,000.
My feed rep told me of a farmer he knows who similarly bought last May and has not planted a crop but has sold his fertiliser instead; presumably he could also rent his land out to an opportunist neighbour.
Economic price for grass keep
There is no doubt the price of grass keep (land rented in for the season) will rise exponentially and I struggle to work the sum on how much my land will produce with less fertiliser, and what is an economic price to pay for grass keep.
The one figure I have in my head at the moment is that at current prices, a normal application rate for silage per acre will be £100 instead of £30. Fertiliser has gone up by three, so will grass keep go up by three?
We have an electricity contract fixed for a year now, but prices have changed mightily since we set it up and I dread having to farm at those levels, being a high consumer of electricity.
Solar panels are at last looking more attractive, even with all the complications of setting them up.
Is farming getting more difficult or am I just getting older and less able to cope with the challenges of modern farming? That is a question I don’t want answered.
Come on let’s be cheerful and have a happy Christmas, hopefully with all your family around you and for those who desire it, a holy Christmas.