By the first week in April, we would normally have decided what fields were going to be grazed, the cattle would be let out and the gate closed.

Apart from general herding and a topping of the grass in late June, they would be left undisturbed until autumn. This year we have decided what fields are for grazing and silage but, given the year, we are grazing most of the fields intended for silage by day with light stores and bringing them in by night.

With poor recovery in the already-grazed paddocks, the decision earlier on in the year to buy in extra wet brewers’ and distillers’ grains has left us in a comfortable enough position with silage supplies, though at a cost.

Once we have got round the silage ground, we will, assuming ground conditions have warmed up, apply nitrogen and a herbicide to control the docks.

We still don’t seem to have a herbicide that will control docks while not damaging clover – why one hasn’t been developed escapes me but that’s for another day. It is quite clear that slurry itself encourages docks regardless of the intrinsic fertility of a particular field.

We now have almost enough light cattle bought in for summer grazing though we won’t have the rest of the beef cattle sold for at least six weeks.

Water level

On the tillage side, land has certainly got firmer and the water level in what I use as an indicator ditch has dropped significantly. The comparatively mild but very wet weather has stimulated a build-up of green material of oilseed rape volunteers in the fields we had intended for our gluten-free oats. The growth may have functioned as a nitrogen-absorbing catch crop but it has left us with a real mess in getting the fields ready for sowing.

We had vaguely considered leaving it to mature until harvest but as it is a hybrid variety that is a non-starter. We gave most of it a light rolling to break the stems but we will have to follow on with a shallow discing – provided conditions allow. We now have the first application of nitrogen out on all the planted crops.

Volunteer beans

As I mentioned last week, the oilseed rape is so poor that we will give it another split of nitrogen and then close the gate in an effort to minimise our losses.

In the first use of the sprayer of the season, we tackled the luxuriant crop of volunteer beans in the seed wheat. Given the conditions at sowing last autumn, we never got to roll the crop so it was no surprise that just as we were finishing, the lifting wire of the sprayer snapped as it went over a bump on the headland. Not very serious but another thing to be fixed!