Well, seems like normal service is resumed on the weather front as we are back to the usual summer fare of sunshine and showers.

The month of warm, dry weather was nice but I think the switch to the rain came at about the right time before crops got too parched.

Certainly, the grass was clearly stressed when we took our second cut, at around 4½ weeks after first cut. Although there wasn’t a lot of grass, I’ve never seen so much grass pollen come off it.

Overall second cut ended up a bit of a struggle. With hindsight, we should have just cut pretty much in front of the chopper, but we’d cut it the day before and the self-propelled harvester didn’t like it one bit. The problem seemed to be a thick tar that formed on the accelerator plate (where the grass meets the air that carries it up the spout), presumably because of the high sugars, choking the whole thing up. Anyway, after a very frustrating day, and many failed attempts to sort the issue we ended up having to get a forage wagon in to lift most of crop.

It will be interesting to see how the silage analyses, the main worry being that it will have a tendency to heat at feed out. That said it was definitely the right move to take the cut, however light, when we did as the grass has really jumped in the last fortnight and looks like third cut will be a bumper crop.

We’ve had the core analysis back on the first cut silage now and it is very similar to last year’s %DM 31.7% (28.3%,2022); protein 16.3% (16.6%); ME 11.8 (12.1); sugars 2.7% (1.3); intakes 102.4 (100.7). So hopefully it will feed out as well when we start it in a few weeks.

As I mentioned last time, the cows have responded to the longer days by swapping milk quality for quantity over the dry spell. We always get a shift with the longer daylight hours (is it evolutionary with the cow ‘making sure’ its ‘calf’ takes in plenty of fluids through the summer?) but it really has been more extreme than usual this year.

We’ve shifted from around 39 litres @ 4.2%BF and 3.35%P to 43 litres @ 3.82%BF and 3.2%P. While it’s always nice to see more milk in the tank, we have to keep reminding ourselves that really, it’s just the same amount of milk solids, so the cows aren’t really doing any better!

According to the climate sensor in the cubicle shed at the peak of the good weather last month, we had a couple of days were the temperature in the shed peaked at over 30C (32C was the highest) and didn’t drop below 18C at night. Despite little change in the milk quantity/quality from the cows the heat clearly had an effect on them.

There were the obvious behaviors like spending more time at the end of the sheds and next to water troughs, and a lot more heavy breathing/panting when they were lying down. But, there were also more subtle differences that were spotted by the Smaxtec boluses.

When you looked at the average body temp across the cows in the high yielding group there was a 0.5C temp spike on the each on the hottest days, interestingly this was in the evening rather than around 3pm when the shed temp peaked. Best guess is that this was a result of them having eaten their fill post-milking, lying down and cudding and getting the fermentation in their rumens going.

The other noticeable thing was that on the really hot day we got lots of bulling alerts. This wasn’t because the cows had become more horny in the heat but rather the bolus was misinterpreting the movement of the reticulum caused by the lungs during panting for the movement of the cow during bulling activity.

Not really a problem as it’s quite easy to spot the true heats (usually also have a drop in rumination) vs the spurious ones (‘panting’ peaks albeit weaker on previous days), and it would probably have been a waste money inseminating them anyway as conception would have been pretty low given the heat.

On the subject of the Smaxtec boluses, there is one other impact they’ve had on us I haven’t yet mentioned. We’ve now passed 13 months without a DA (displaced abomasum), which is quite a milestone as we’d normally average 3-4 a year (1%). I think this is because we’re better able to monitor our fresh calved cows and take earlier preventative measures (mainly calcium boluses, rumen yeast capsules) before the cows develop the external symptoms we used to rely on.

Finally, I’d just like to thank the guys at Global Sandblasting who spent a fortnight in the peak of the hot weather stripping the paint off the external walls of the farm house. They did a great job and it’s lovely to see the house back to the original white stone walls with granite quoins (from the French for corner apparently). It has completely changed the character of the whole house, almost hard to believe it is the same house in fact.