New entrant dairy farmer Jon Stanley farms an 82-hectare (203-acre) council farm, renting more land near Shaftesbury. Married to Clea, with two children, he runs a 180-head spring block calving herd, mostly pedigree Jerseys and cross-breds. Milk is sold to Barber’s cheese. The farm also hosts a Woodland Forest School and he won ’new entrant, against the odds’ at the 2013 British Farming Awards.
Well, we have relit the Aga this week and have the central heating on again. It is still very cold and feels more like autumn than spring.
The few days of sunshine and hot temperatures came and went quickly and let us hope this current weather pattern is not the norm for the rest of the year.
The ground here is still wet and while the cows are out grazing full time, it is still a juggle to put them somewhere they do not cause too much damage. This is made worse by the fact some of the grazing platform is closed up for silage.
My criteria is usually based on grass which gets away from the cows and the covers become too heavy, but this year the fields have been selected on their wetness. It is nice to have all stock out grazing which has greatly reduced the workload after a few tough months. Like most, we ended up with no clamp silage and few silage bales left, and we usually have plenty in hand to carry over.
With this late spring and some away silage ground only just getting fertiliser a few weeks ago, it looks like first cut production may be down when a bumper year is needed more than ever. Fingers crossed we have some compensatory growth and a longer late season.
The few warm days we had you could almost watch and hear the grass growing and the leaves on the trees seem to have appeared all at once.
We have already started breeding for calving next year.
We will use AI to dairy bulls for six weeks before we put stock bulls into the herd. The cows do seem to be bulling strong and milking well considering the weather hassles and changes they have endured over these last few weeks.
Driving around the area the last few days there does seem to be a lot of ground still to drill and I have not seen any maize in the ground locally. We have also been flat out, when the weather has allowed, trying to catch up with delayed fieldwork when we can and I think we are nearly there.
I dread to think what the straw prices will be next winter as there is little carry over anywhere and the reduced plantings of spring crops are sure to have a knock-on effect.
May marks the start of the show season and we aim to attend a few local shows. I may venture north to the Great Yorkshire Show. A few planned days and a break away from the farm can only do good this year.