Sometimes the worst thing about writing these articles is that it highlights how little things have progressed in the last month.

In a normal year the youngstock would have been out to grass for three weeks by now and we’d be busy studying the weather forecast looking for a window to take the first cut of silage in the next week. But this is far from a normal year…

The frosts through April have really held back grass growth and it’s really been too cold for our black and white heifers to be out anyway as they are a bit soft in comparison to their beef brethren. Hopefully though this week looks a bit more promising so we’ll maybe have a fair few of them out by the time you are reading this.

On the silage front, we'll also hopefully get a chance to go in about two to three weeks time. Although it’s going to be a lighter first cut than normal, this has to be balanced against the damage done to the current leaves by the prolonged period of frosts. If we take these leaves away, the regrowth should be much more efficient at harvesting the sunlight.

That said, it is hard to imagine the grass will make up for the lost growth of the past month over the summer. Thankfully we’ve some silage carried over from last year so hopefully things will all even out.

Our milk buyer, Lactalis, recently announced that the milk price will be going up by 1.25p per litre from start of June. Welcome though the increase is, it barely scratches the surface in comparison to the increase in feed costs as we move from the winter to the summer feed contracts. We’re looking at around a 30% increase in concentrate price which will push our feed costs up by around 3p per litre.

This year we held off feeding our homegrown beans over the winter knowing that this price hike was likely so hopefully that will take the edge off the increase.

Another area where costs seem to be continually rising is electricity, so we’ve finally installed a solar panel array on the only shed roof we have that faces south. The biggest issue really has been trying to maximise our use of the 'free' electricity. As, although we use a lot of power during milking for the vacuum pumps and milk cooling etc, there is a large part of the day (10am-3pm) when that is not the case. So, we’ve moved the timings of hot water heating etc to try and cover this gap and we’re currently using about 85% of the power generated, with the savings on the electricity bill at around £400 per month which would give us break even in year six.

To end on a positive note, back in September I mentioned that our oldest cow, Killywhan Supersonic Myra 2, had just finished her ninth lactation. Unfortunately, she ended up having a premature stillborn calf and we were worried that we might have difficulty getting her pregnant again. However, we recently received confirmation from the vet that she is back in calf and even better to a black and white bull with her due date being Christmas day of all days! Fingers crossed!