Suddenly, the first of the daffodils has appeared, just as we started trying the ground for slurry. In fact, ground conditions were not bad, provided we chose the area carefully.
Even though ponds in fields are drying up, drains are still running, and it is apparent that any blockages in water courses or in what were assumed to be dry ditches are causing problems that are reflected in wet spots in the middle of fields.
Looking at our own situation, I wonder how many farmers have full farm drainage maps.
It’s easy enough where the land project grant-aided a modern drainage scheme – they prepared excellent maps for each scheme, but many farms have a patchwork of drains put in over the last 200 years or perhaps longer.
In many cases, they are still working, but the type of drain varies from mole type installation, with just stone laid in a trench running from a wet patch to a ditch. Often, the stone comes right up to the surface and it acts as a conduit for the water both down the profile and along the gently sloping trench to the ditch or water course.
In other cases, early tiled drains were installed. In many of these, the diameter of the clay tile is very narrow and has, over the years, become clogged with silt or remnants of weeds and debris and often there is no option but to replace the whole system.
A year like this throws up evidence of where the problems are.
But to get back to this early spring, if and when the dry weather returns, we will start to graze some of the store cattle by day in some of the dry paddocks and follow the grazing with slurry. We have treated the slurry with an additive and there is no doubt the material has been easier to agitate and the normal pungent smell has been completely absent.
Whether the claim that there is less ammonia in the slurry and more available nitrate is another matter, I have no way of measuring whether or not the claim is valid; but I would be interested to know if there is a way of finding out.
On the tillage side, we still have no nitrogen or any other fertiliser bought. We have got one or two tentative quotes, but with grain prices back to the level of two years ago and nitrogen prices almost twice as high as they were then, the prospective margins are shrinking. There seems to be little prospect of cut price opportunistic imports.
Everyone in the trade with existing stocks has an interest in keeping prices as high as possible until the stocks are cleared.
Despite my reluctance to buy at current prices, we will have to place an order for at least some of our needs this week.