What a difference four weeks makes! The marginal improvement in the weather has finally allowed us to get on the ground and we’ve got some slurry spread and about 46ha of winter wheat sown.

With the weather still so changeable and the ground conditions less than ideal the planting of the wheat has been very stop-start. And to try and minimise compaction we’ve been ploughing the end-rigs after the rest of the field is sown which has made the whole process and bit more complicated and time consuming.

Overall though, given the back-end we’ve had, it’s a bit of a relief to get it in. All we can do now is wait and hope that it all comes up through ok. Think we might need a good period of hard frost through the winter though to let us out to pick stones!

Despite the wet ground conditions we’ve managed to keep most of the youngstock out until quite recently without too much sign of poaching. Most of the in-calf heifers have now been housed and it’s only really the pre-bullers that are left out as they should be lighter on their feet. They are on supplementary feeding though as despite there still being a reasonable amount of grass left it’s feed value is quickly dropping as it starts to yellow at the tips.

This is our best option for tidying the fields up before the winter so they are ready for the spring, as we’re not really huge fans of winter grazing sheep. As a closed herd, bringing on sheep seems an unnecessary risk with regards to disease control and sometimes it’s not as easy as you’d hope to get them lifted in the spring so that you can get an early cut of silage.

With this likely to be a long and expensive (if the price of straw is any indicator) winter, we’ve taken a hard un-sentimental look through the herd to make sure we’re not carrying any passengers. So it was, with some regret, that we decided to say good-bye last week to Killywhan Lookout Justia.

At just over 12-years-old, she was the herd’s grand matriarch – with 146,000kg of milk and eight calves throughout her lifetime. She will be sorely missed not least as we have a paucity of daughters of her lineage!

As we head into the shorter days the cows seem to be milking well. What has been noticeable though is that butterfat levels have been increasing, so much so that we were over 4% last month, which is unusual for us.

Unfortunately the milk yield has been slipping at the same rate, so the solids per cow have actually stayed the same (c2.75kg/cow/day). This isn’t a huge issue but as our contract favours protein (which has been relatively stable at c3.3%) you can’t help feeling your missing out a little especially given the price of butter!

The next month is going to be a busy one for us as I obviously hit a purple patch back in Feb/Mar which means that instead of our normal rate of around 30 calvings per month we’re expecting more than 50 in the next four weeks. So next month I’ll let you know how we’re getting on and how we manage the cows through the “Transition”.

Finally as I am writing this the weekend before Agriscot, I’d like to wish the finalists in all the categories, good luck. With special mention for those in the “Dairy Farm of the Year”, I don’t envy Donald Millar having to choose a winner from such a strong field...