They say be careful what you wish for. We had been hoping for a break in the weather to get stuck in to some jobs and, crikey, we have been busy with fertiliser spreading, spraying, tanking, ploughing, subsoiling, power harrowing, drilling maize and spring barley, staff training, fencing and a few cows to milk. Even the dog is shattered.
We have had three lagoons to empty – one with a frustrating depth of sand at the bottom which needed attention with the digger, leading me to question if the benefits of sand really do outweigh its drawbacks.
The latter half of last winter was spent trying to get the cows to milk better and now, just as the cows stretched their legs on the spring grass, we are trying to reduce yield by 3 per cent as the coronavirus impacts demand.
These exceptional times have highlighted once again the challenges of the milk market in this country, with some producers put into precarious positions by their processor customer.
If we are to continue on the basis that each farm has one customer, then we need to build in greater security.
That would mean security of fair pricing and of fair payments to ensure any processor’s problem is not directly passed back to the farmer who has been fulfilling their contractual obligations in full.
While typing it has been announced that primary schools are scheduled to re-open on June 1. It will be a nervous wait to see how far we progress out of lockdown and at what speed.
The production manager in me wants the food service sector to be up and running again as soon as possible to restore dairy demand, but the human being in me reminds me we are the lucky ones to be running at 97 per cent output, not furloughed and not stuck in a flat for 23 hours each day.
Last autumn’s challenging weather made us wonder about the benefits of maize. Cheshire is not known for its lack of rainfall and it felt like most of it arrived when we were trying to harvest the crop.
This winter’s feeding suggested 30 per cent inclusion of maize worked well for our type of cow, so it looks like we will plan for this kind of level.
Incidentally, locally the spring barley which was drilled early into cold soil seems to have been struggling whereas that drilled later has bounced out of the ground.
Another interesting question is that of Christmas turkeys. It seems coronavirus may have changed the way we live for more than just these last couple of months.
With this in mind we are wondering about how many poults we will need to order, what size and whether the foreign staff we use will be able to come and help process the birds.
Answers on a postcard please and of course if you feel like a couple of weeks plucking and dressing turkeys in mid-December do get in touch with me via this publication.