By John Harvey

Well what a month Flaming June” was. For the first half it seemed like we were never going to get two dry days together and then suddenly it decided to live up to its moniker. Having been caught out with the weather with our first cut silage we were determined to get some higher Dry Matter (DM) second cut which meant we had that strange silage purgatory where the first action each day is to watch the previous night’s long term forecast in the hope of some hint that a high pressure will materialise.

In the end we got the second cut six weeks after the first and it seems pretty good quality even with only a 24-hour wilt, although we won’t know for certain until we get some analysis back. There was certainly plenty of quantity though with this year’s second cut almost as large as the combination of second and third last year. Not a bad place to be but does raise the issue of where the rest of this year’s crop will go.

We did something a bit different when it comes to additives this year. Based on a newish product one of the additive companies, was selling we treated the silage with a solution containing both bugs and citric acid. The idea being that the citric acid lowers the pH a little which encourages the homolytic, rather than the heterolytic, bacteria which makes for a more efficient fermentation to stabilise the silage. As always with silage additives it seems more black art than hard science with little by way of experimental evidence to back it up (which perhaps isn’t too surprising given the possible number of variables and confounders that would need to be taken into account) but seems like a good concept so we’ll see how it does.

Grass isn’t the only crop growing well with the spring beans also in pretty good shape. They are just past the flowering stage and are currently over five feet high in some parts of the field and a lovely dark green which hopefully means they’ll have plenty of energy to fill the pods.

The winter wheat is also looking good and is just starting to turn so should be ready for whole-cropping in the next two-three weeks. With pit space being tight, the plan is to combine and crimp some of this too.

On the cattle front after a relatively quiet month for calvings in June it seems like the cows can’t get back to milking fast enough with as many calves born in the first week of July as in the whole of June. So much for the nice level all-year-round calving profile!

Despite our concerns about the first cut silage it hasn’t turned out too bad. Granted there is quite a bit of slippage and therefore wastage on the small pit we’re working on but then it did get quite a soaking while it was being lifted. The analysis though is 20% DM, 15.5% Protein, 12.1 ME so reasonably comparable to last year apart from the DM, and hopefully the material in the main pit will be better as it got less rain.

On the whole the cows have hardly missed a beat since it was introduced into the ration though and are currently on just under 41 litres/cow in the tank with 2.9kgs of milk solids, which is about as good as we’ve been. It is especially pleasing as the cows are a little staler (i.e. longer calved) than is ideal with the average days in milk at the last recording a couple of weeks ago being 214 days.

No doubt the latest spate of calvings will sort that out...


JOHN, his brother Stuart and their mother Margaret, own and manage one of the National Milk Record’s (NMR’s) top Holstein production herds at Drum, Beeswing, Dumfries, having won the award for the past three years in succession.

Over the past year, their home-bred herd produced average milk yields of 13,643kg with 945kg of butterfat and protein, with a calving index of 400 days. They also own nine of the top 15 highest yielding cows.