It is that horrible time of year when the days really start to shorten and it hardly feels like there is enough time to get work done to prepare for the winter ahead.

The cows are all housed full time now as are some of the youngstock but there are still some out tidying up the grass fields so we feel like there’s more work to do instead of having all stock inside, or, all outside. And, despite the general downturn in the weather, we’ve still had quite a bit of field work to get through.

The end of September saw us combining field beans. At just under 3t/acre it’s probably about as good a crop as we’ve had. Normally we’d crimp them, mix with Trafford Gold (to help exclude air) and ensile, but this year moist feeds seem tricky to get hold of. So instead, we’ve went for a novel approach and mixed the beans with some of our crimped wheat, then adding water to the mixture to make it a bit more porridge like and ensiled that. Hopefully it will work ok, I guess time will tell.

We also got a bit of fifth cut silage done at the start of October. Given the time of year we were worried it might end up as wet mush but it actually wilted pretty well and seemed like a decent crop. It really has been quite a remarkable year for grass growth and the silage pits are well filled, with the analyses so far all looking good with Dry Matter (25-40% across the first four cuts); Protein (13-18%); ME (10.9-12MJ/kg) and intakes (93-103g/kg).

With the last of the harvest done we also found a gap between the low-pressure weather systems last week to fire in the winter wheat with over 100 acres sown over three days. Given how the weather forecast is looking going forward I think it was probably a good decision, so thanks to all those involved in getting it done in such short order.

As I said earlier, the cows are all in full time now, and after a bit of a lull in calving over the last few months there has been a bit of an uptick in the last couple of weeks. With the herd a touch staler than usual the yields have dropped a bit and a sitting at around 36-37litres sold/cow/day but the components are well above what we normally see at 4.30%BF and 3.45%P, which puts our protein level well into the bonus banding for our milk buyer so we should hopefully hit the magic 50ppl for this month all being well.

With AgriScot coming up in a few weeks’ time I thought I’d mention a couple of pieces of technology that we’ve started using lately, in case people might be interested in finding out more about them there.

First off is FeedAlert from Collinson (thanks to Davidson Animal Feeds for giving us a trial of the system). FeedAlert as the name suggests monitors the feed levels in bulk silos giving daily updates on the amount used/left.

Unlike every other system I’ve seen, this one doesn’t need any physical changes to the silo. When the silo is filled the legs get compressed and shorten very slightly and the silo empties the legs get imperceptibly longer with these changes being picked up by a strain gauge clipped to the side of one of the legs. The data is downloaded daily and is then available via an app.

While there does seem to be a little variation in how much feed it reckons is used day-to-day, it does seem to be pretty accurate over when looking at the amount left in the bin which I think is the more important info. The other great thing is it doesn’t matter what kind of silo you’ve got, the one we’re trialling it on is an EB Bin.

Another newish piece of kit for us is a Joz Moov 2.0 robotic silage pusher. Unlike most silage pushers that need a metallic strip set in the ground for them to follow this one uses a ‘bread crumb’ trail of transponders set in the concrete every 4m or so. It also has an actuator which can lift the skirt allowing the robot to go up slopes. Because of our feeding times we generally programme it to run at night and set it off for a couple of manual runs through the day just to push up the final bits of silage.

Has it made a difference to the cows’ uptake of ration? Difficult to say, but it has made a huge impact from a labour-saving point of view. This was especially noticeable last week when it had a break down and we had to go back to pushing it in ourselves!

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to highlight the fact we’ve just begun a search for a herdsperson. A successful candidate would have responsibility for supervising some of the milkings and would work proactively with us on all aspects of cow health and fertility. If you think the opportunity would be of interest to you, full details, including how to apply, can be found through