By John Harvey

Well summer 2019 continues to provide excellent conditions for plant growth – it's just a shame that that same weather is far from conducive to allowing a stress-free harvest.

So far we’ve had three bites at the third cut silage, grabbing odd days between low pressure systems and have been quite lucky in missing the worst of the showers. However, it has been quite noticeable how much time we’ve lost in the continual cycle of uncovering and then recovering the pits with each cut.

One thing is abundantly clear though – we’ll not be suffering a shortage of forage any time soon with the pits already fuller than they were at the end of last summer and we’ve still a little third cut and all of fourth cut to take.

We’ve also managed to squeeze in the winter wheat wholecrop. The standing crop had been looking really good til about three weeks ago when a night of really heavy rain took its toll on a couple of the fields and it became more of a 'leaning quite badly' crop. Thankfully though, the chopper team managed to get it lifted without much head loss.

There are still about 40 acres of the winter wheat left to harvest which we’re hoping to combine and crimp, although that very much depends on us getting a suitable weather window before it ripens.

The cows have now eaten their way through the small pit of first cut silage without us having to dispose of too much waste, which given how it looked in the days after it was pitted is somewhat of a miracle. Rather than start the main first cut pit and risking it slipping we’ve now switched the cows to the second cut which has analysed really well (31%DM; 17.4% Protein and 12.0 ME).

The only fly in the metaphorical ointment is that a couple of the dry cows have succumbed to 'udder clap'. Possibly this is due to the more humid weather. Certainly we didn’t have any cases last summer when, although it was probably just as warm, it was much drier.

The somewhat ironic thing is that both the cows that have suffered from mastitis have been in the around 20% of cows which are treated with both teat sealant and intra-mammary antibiotics at drying off. So clearly the antibiotic hasn’t been as effective as one would hope at clearing up/preventing infection.

Also I never really get the feeling that teat sealant is as effective when co-administered with antibiotics. Certainly when it comes ease of drawing the teats post-calving, it’s normally quite obvious which cows have had only teat sealant and which have also had antibiotic tubes.

Anyway let’s hope the jet stream heads back north in the near future so we can get back to a drier and hopefully less stressful summer.

FACT file 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 butter fat and protein, with a calving index of 400 days.

They also own nine of the top 15 highest yielding cows.