You wouldn’t know where to look in the yard this winter. There were days where you’d have your head down to avoid having rain driven into your face by gales. That was all well and good until you reached a slatted area and saw how high the slurry in the tank was.

You’d start checking what date it was and wondering is that where it’s meant to be by now?

Maybe it’s better to walk with the head and eyes up and then you see where the silage is or is meant to be, and again the calendar and calculator come out. Thankfully things seem to be under control with both slurry and fodder, but it’s a balancing act.

They’re the two items that I prefer to be negative on when it comes to planning, and I try to have enough of both heading into the autumn. Regardless of weather conditions, it makes for a more comfortable working environment.

Grass growth was a fraction higher than usual over the wet and mild closing months of 2023, and while that’s a positive, having too much of it can prove challenging when it comes to getting slurry out on it.

With that in mind, I kept a handful of cows out at either yard in order to have grass covers suitable for slurry, but part of that plan has to change now. After behaving up until this week, the bunch of younger cows that aren’t in-calf started to become unsettled over the last week. Maybe they missed all the wind and rain they had up to now and were thrown by the appearance of the sun.


On the upside, they have ground grazed without doing too much damage and they’re in better shape than they were in October.

I had hoped to leave them out and finish them off grass in summer, but given the shape they’re in, they’ll fall in nicely with a bunch of finishing heifers and go a bit earlier instead.

Yes, there will be a slight extra cost with ration for them, but they went from being relatively little hassle to creating work, and that’s a cost too. Other positives are that they will be gone earlier, and that plays a part with nitrates too.

Elsewhere in the yard, the in-calf cows have been on a three days of hay, four days of silage diet for the last month. Most are in very good order, and if we get a tough spring, I’d rather have silage to fall back on once they’ve calved.

The cows in poorer condition will get a dose over the next fortnight.

The in-calf heifers are getting hay as well, but only every second week. I don’t want to be as hard on them as they’re still growing and calving is on the horizon.

The young bulls began moving to ration about a month earlier than last year, and it’s starting to show with them. Weather meant they were weaned that bit earlier, so ration came into play in November.

The finishing stock are the only groups not on a forage-only diet. They’re the ones where I can see bang for my buck when it comes to meal feeding.

It’s a cost that in my mind doesn’t add up when it comes to breeding animals, as I think it allows some stock to become too dependent on it and they just fade away when it’s not available.