Another month, another cut of silage… well just over a month at any rate.

Last week we took our second cut of silage – we didn’t catch the weather window perfectly with the cut grass getting a little rain overnight before we lifted it, but it still seemed a pretty nice crop.

At 37 days between cuts, we’re quite a bit more spaced out than the true multi-cut evangelists, but as we had applied slurry after first cut, we didn’t want to rush to second cut too quickly, preferring to give extra time to allow any contamination to dissipate. Also, the extended period of dry weather seemed to have been holding the grass back and it was only in the last week or so as we got a bit of rain that it seemed to bulk up.

With access to last year’s first cut now blocked off by this new crop we’ve switched the rations across to 2020’s first cut. It’s too early to say if there’s going to be much of an impact on the milk but would certainly hope the analysis is much improved over last year’s soggy offering. We’ve gone from a shocking 21% Dry Matter for last year to a much more respectable 38.9% this year (2108 was 34.3% for a better comparison). Not surprisingly this has led to a huge improvement in the intake value from 76.7g/kg in 2019 to 119.7g/kg this year.

Particularly pleasing are the Metabolisable Energy (ME) at 12.1MJ/kg (most years we’re in the 11-12 band) and sugars at 7.6%.

Interestingly the VFA (volatile fatty acids) and lactic acid are both lowish at 13.6g/kg and 38.7g/kg respectively. Not sure if this is a result of the citric acid, we’ve been using in the additive, helping to lower the pH of the clamp quicker thereby reducing the amount of sugars broken down to the acids. The critical thing will be whether the silage is stable with these levels of acid or do we see deterioration at the face now it’s exposed to air.

Another point of note, especially given all the articles in the farming press of late about Pica, is that the mineral analysis of this year’s first cut shows much lower levels of phosphorus than last years. This is clearly linked to the large amount of rain we had over the winter which will have led to leaching as phosphate is poorly bound by the soil.

Elsewhere although thankfully we’ve so far avoided any direct effects from the pandemic, we’re definitely seeing some indirect consequences even as the country starts to ease out of lockdown. Certainly a few weeks ago when our parlour air compressor failed and I tried to get in a replacement it seems like next day delivery isn’t much of a thing these days with 3-4 days being de rigueur. Thankfully we keep a spare compressor, as we use compressed air to lift the bailings in the parlour to release the cows so without one we can’t really milk the cows!

Another more ongoing issue is going to be PPE. We wear both disposable gloves and over sleeves while milking to not only protect ourselves but reduce the risk of transferring any mastitic bugs from cow to cow. And also wear gloves when cleaning cubicles.

Currently it is pretty much impossible to find a source of oversleeves. And although there is a very limited supply of gloves available – our normal supplier lets us buy five boxes of 100 gloves at a time – these have almost tripled in price. While it is possible for us to try and reduce our usable a little, it is easy to understand how it is a much larger issue in the care setting where carers now hopefully use new gloves for each patient, so could easily go through a box of gloves in little time at all.

Finally, we had our Red Tractor assessment a few weeks ago, and it was a very different affair from usual given the restrictions in place. I think it is important that the assessments are continuing even with the limitations caused by the lockdown. I don’t think that a walk round by video will ever be a totally satisfactory replacement for actually having the assessor on site but it is better than nothing.

That said one innovation that I hope they might continue is the ability to send the assessor photos of the paperwork beforehand. It would be nice not to return confronting him with a huge pile of folders on the kitchen table and going through them all to find the bits he wants to see. Or maybe that was just us!!