Just when it appeared that we were on the cusp of spring, the weather seems to have taken a step back towards winter!

There is no escaping the fact the year is wearing on, though and we’re really only five or six weeks away from our first cut of silage.

The silage fields have all had the fertiliser and slurry now and we’re in the process of rolling them. Soil analysis suggests that the potassium and phosphorus levels are fine but we plan to spread some sulphur in the form of Calcifert S to try and boost grass growth and increase protein levels.

Most of the winter wheat seems to have come through the winter pretty well. There are definitely patches, though, where the high levels of rainfall have taken their toll and soured it out.

It seems problems with vaccine supply extends beyond Covid-19 and into animal products too, with our second doses of Huskvac being held up. As we’ve got to wait a minimum of two weeks from completing the course to putting them to grass, this might hold up turnout a little although given that it looks like remaining cold for the next couple of weeks that might not be an issue.

Normally, we would use a pour-on wormer on the youngstock throughout the summer but this year we’re thinking we might go for a pulsed release bolus, such as Autoworm, allowing the calves to get some exposure to build up immunity to worms while stopping it from overwhelming them.

The reason for considering the change is that staffing is likely to be a problem later in the year once travel restrictions ease and all our employees want to go back home to Poland to visit family.

The cows are continuing to milk well at 43-litres per cow in the tank at 3.84% BF and 3.27% P, which comes out at 3.15kg of milk solid which is about as high as we’ve ever been. The only slight problem is that combined with the fact we’re up a little on cow numbers relative to where we expected to be, means we are about 10% more milk than we had anticipated when we submitted our production forecast to Lactalis at the start of the year.

So, depending on how the spring flush goes and the production levels for the producer pool as a whole, some of these extra litres might get paid at a lower price. Obviously, there are a couple of options to reduce milk volumes down a bit: We could cull harder, dry off cows earlier, or try and ‘close the tap’ a bit on milk yields.

Of these, the first is probably the easiest in theory, although not psychologically as it’s hard to part with cows on purely economic grounds as opposed to health and welfare. Drying off cows early can work to a degree but it has to be well managed as there is a risk that cows become over fat with an extended dry period and this will just lead to problems during transition as they calf down for the next lactation.

Likewise, it’s not as simple as cutting back on concentrate feed and the cows’ milk production will correspondingly reduce. Their diet is finely balanced and if you cut back on her energy intake the cow will initially just try and maintain production by using her fat reserves.

Normally, she’ll use the internal reserves first so you won’t even notice the loss of body condition to start with. What you will definitely notice down the line is a drop in fertility – you often see this in winter when you get a really cold spell and the cows are using more energy to keep warm and then at the vet visit a few weeks later you have a lot more ‘empty’ (not pregnant) cows.

Finally, I imagine with lambing in full swing there are farming kids across the land looking after ‘pet lambs’ – those weaker ones that need that extra bit of TLC.

Now unfortunately – or fortunately depending on your point of view – for my nieces we really don’t do sheep, however it seems that they won’t be denied this right of passage as they have the next best thing a pet calf called ‘Izzy’.

Izzy was born a few weeks prematurely from a heifer and I’m pretty sure she’s the smallest viable calf we’ve had at well under 20kg at birth.

It will be a long time before she will be strong enough to be put on the calf feeder without the risk of her being shoved out the way by the other, bigger calves, so it’s a good thing we have ‘staff’ wanting to bottle feed her every day!