What a difference a few weeks of nice weather makes!

With the youngstock out, the first cut silage done and the fertiliser and slurry on to the aftermath, the previous eight months are starting to fade from memory.

We cut almost 300 acres of grass for our first cut. Most of it was tedded out to aid wilting and chopped after around 48 hours. We were pretty much the same week timing-wise as last year, but the crop was clearly lighter – probably about 15% down in volume.

That said, it was sticking well to the train wheels of the Silopactor when we were filling the pit, which is normally a sign of high sugar levels. Hopefully that means we’ll get a good analysis back when we sample it in a few weeks.

Even though conditions were ideal for silage making, we still went for belt and braces approach adding biological additive during chopping. We then have two tractors on the pit during filling – one with a buckrake bringing the grass into the pit; while the second concentrates on rolling the pit with the Silopactor.

We’ve been using the Silopactor for about six years now and it does make a great job getting the pit consolidated, especially next to the pit walls which tend to be the difficult bit.

It looks like last year’s silage will keep us going to middle of June now that it only has the milk cows to feed, so hopefully the timing will be almost perfect to give us an empty pit to put the second cut in.

Normally, with the silage done, we’re looking to be getting the milk cows out to grass. Over the years our thoughts on grazing the cows have shifted somewhat.

Back in the mists of time – well seven or eight years ago at any rate – the whole herd would have been out to grass in the spring pretty much as soon as conditions allowed. They were set stocked initially and then strip grazing aftermaths following silage cuts.

When we started milking the higher yielding cows three-times-a-day, things became slightly more complicated. The mid/late lactation cows were still grazed full time but the higher yielders only got out for seven hours through the day.

Although this salved our conscience in that clearly we were doing the 'right thing' by putting the cows to grass, it doesn’t take many wet days for you to realise that what the higher yielding cows really want is a nice consistent diet placed right in front of them, with a dry comfortable bed a few metres away.

In fact, this point is neatly illustrated by the fact that on several occasions when we’ve moved groups of cows from the high group to the mids, we’ve had them break through fences to get back inside.

In more recent years, we’ve moved to housing the high group year round. We set-stock the mid-lactation cows on silage aftermaths following first cut, with additional buffer feeding made available to them before the afternoon milking and after the morning milking, while the rest of the herd is milking.

However, following last year’s disastrous summer, we’ve been re-assessing how we treat the mid group with a view to grazing them only through the day. Clearly, there are advantages to full-time grazing such as the cows, for the most part, feeding themselves; producing less slurry for us to handle; and when the weather is like this is there really a better option bedding wise for a cow than finding a clean comfortable spot in the field.

This being Scotland, though, this spell of weather won’t last. And then we’ll find ourselves back to worrying about poaching fields and cows trailing through mucky gates.

Also, as the cows are already buffer fed, partial housing won’t require any extra feeder wagon loads, only a bigger one.

Partial housing should also have the advantage that the cows will eat buffer through the night rather than losing time through the day, meaning they use their daylight hours at grass more effectively, especially later in the season.

And, finally, our labour will be deployed more efficiently if we don’t have to go gathering cows first thing in the morning.

So far, the cows seem happy enough with the new arrangement. And no doubt we’ll have the best summer weather ever now we’ve decided to give this a try.