Finally after almost six weeks since the 'Beast from the East' the weather has improved and we have what seems like a traditional end to April where we are trying to do a dozen things at the same time.

On the cattle front we’d got ourselves semi-prepared for the off with the pre-bulling Holstein heifers getting their lungworm and blackleg vaccinations over the last month or so. As we like to keep the bulling heifers housed for ease of AI’ing we also had to make the perennial decision of where we draw the line for stirks going out versus staying housed.

Aiming for an age-at-first-calving (AFC) of <24months obviously means you’ve got to have them in calf by 13 months. And then you’ve got the BVD vaccination to do before that so that’s another month younger. And on top of that it’s somewhat disruptive to their growth if you put them out to grass only to pull them in a month later.

Then of course there is the added complication of the BVD check test. We do the dairy check test which is 10 calves from each grouping between 9-18 months at least every six months. The nine month lower limit is to make sure that the calf is clear from any maternal BVD anti-bodies it had picked up from its mother’s colostrum. In practice though, the 18 month upper limit is in fact around 11 months as the test has to be done before the calves are vaccinated.

Anyway to keep our workload simple we decided that, even though we still had over a month left to run before our next check test was due, we’d draw off the next 20 oldest heifers to put in the bulling group and blood test 10 of them, with all the rest of the calves going to grass. As they’ve been running together most of the winter if any of them were infected it would clearly show up in this sentinel group.

As far as field work there has been the usual spring selection of fertiliser spreading, spraying and rolling of the grass fields. We were lucky in that we got the last of our cereals in just before the cold snap although it seemed to take an age for them to germinate and break cover.

The silage fields have really taken off in the last week or so and although they’ll probably not be ready quite as early as last year they shouldn’t be too far off. This is just as well as the silage pits are starting to look quite depleted, with the latest measurement suggesting the silage will only last till the first week of June.

With that in mind our current plan is to use a chemical preservative rather than biological additive on the last part of this year’s first cut. The idea being that it should be ready to use earlier as it won’t have to ferment and then stabilise before we can feed it. We normally use the preservative on our wholecrop where it works pretty well with very little wastage so hopefully it will work just as well on the silage.

Anyway here’s hoping that this nice spell of weather continues and we get a decent summer- surely it’s the least we all deserve after the last year!

John, his brother Stuart and their mother Margaret, own and manage the National Milk Record's (NMR's) top Holstein production herd at Drum, Beeswing, Dumfries. Their 309-cow home-bred herd retained the top spot for the second year in succession and also increased production by

15kg of fat and protein to give an average of 961kg and 583kg of milk to 13,662kg on a three times daily milking regime.