What a month or so it’s been. Apart from the occasional light shower it’s hard to remember the last time we had 'proper' rain.

The big worry is that when it does eventually break that it will forget to stop especially as we’re now only a couple of weeks from first cut silage time. Are we going to end up in a similar position to last year where you either cut early before the rains or risk being delayed while waiting on the weather improving?

The one benefit we have this year is that at least it is a bit warmer and the grass is growing well. That said, after being caught out last year with the grass just disappearing, we’ve been a bit more hesitant about rushing to get the youngstock out especially as there was still a little of the third cut silage left in the pit for them to finish off.

The drier weather has also meant we’ve had to alter our fertiliser plans slightly this spring. Normally, the first dressing on the silage fields is urea but this year with rains being rather unreliable we switched to AN rather than risk the urea evaporating before it had a chance to wash in – it’s expensive enough without half of it not even getting into the ground.

With the diesel price sky high and not showing much sign of coming down we were quite glad that most of the crops were sown in the back end with only the beans needing done this spring. The big worry will be if we start seeing supply issues returning as we head into silage season as a tank of diesel doesn’t last long when you’ve got the forage harvester and a squad of tractors to replenish.

The major drawback of having nice weather at this time of year is that it doesn’t really help with the enthusiasm for filling in the SAF paper work. If you haven’t started and are thinking of doing it last minute, I’d encourage you to reconsider especially if you need to do any EFA (Ecological Focus Area) maps.

The mapping software on the Rural Payments website has changed and let’s just say it’s not as intuitive as one would have hoped. If you have half a day to spare there are loads of YouTube clips showing how to use it – as if farmers have nothing better to spend our time on! I can only imagine that they sought comments on the new software from agricultural consultants, who are now no doubt rubbing their hands at the thought of all the extra work they’ll get from farmers not having time to get to grips with the software.

One the positive side, it is good to see that Scot Gov is going to use SACGS to help fund equipment to help reduce ammonia emissions. We’ve been using a dribble bar rather than splash plate for about eight years now and it is definitely a huge improvement. The benefit isn’t just from reduced emissions though, there is also better grass growth because, in much the same way a clean window lets more light into the room, by not covering all the grass with slurry more sunlight can get to the chlorophyll.

On a related note, in a previous article, I mentioned we were trying a slurry additive to hopefully lock up any volatile nitrogenous or sulphurous compounds in the slurry. So, we’ve not been scientifically rigorous and tested the slurry before and after but there is definitely a change in the smell of the slurry afterwards which hopefully means it’s had a positive effect. And it also seems to have a bit less crust on it which should help reduce mixing costs.

While it has been great to see the milk price increase as processors try and boost supply (and that’s before we start seeing supply tail off post 'spring flush') I think they might be in for a surprise as to just how unresponsive milk production will be. While increased cashflow can help us deal with the rampant input cost inflation it isn’t necessarily going to help with the other big barrier to increasing production, namely labour.

Over the last few months, we’ve been quite lucky to have pretty much a full complement of staff. However, we’ve known that that will change in the next few weeks as first Kris heads back to his family in Poland and then at end of June Hannah finishes her year with us. With that in mind we’ve been looking to recruit people either as part-time or full-time staff. It really is quite a challenge as even with a pay rate which is well above National Minimum Wage there seems to be only very limited interest. Maybe as inflation really starts to bite and 'cost-of-living crisis' intensifies things will change but I’m afraid I’m not overly optimistic.

Finally, last month at Dairy-Tech we were very pleased to be presented with the Chris May Memorial Award for the highest lifetime daily yield at 20.62kg/cow/day-of-life. This is a huge achievement for us, as it is a highly competitive category and you need not only high levels of milk production, but also to have healthy, fertile, long-lasting cows. Hopefully this won’t be a flash in the pan and having achieved it once we’re able to maintain those standards.