New entrant dairy farmer Jon Stanley farms an 82-hectacre (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-breeds. 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.
This is turning out to be a year of extremes and challenges with regards to the weather. We have quickly gone from the coldest and the wettest days, to the hottest and driest. A period of normal weather would be much appreciated.
At the moment here in Dorset, we have very little grass at all. I think we have only had about three weeks of a spring flush this year. It has not rained since we did first cut silage in mid-May.
There have been many days where it has looked like rain, but we seem to have evaded the downpours, if there were any. As I have said before, the forecasts over the last six weeks seem to have been very inaccurate.
The grass we do have is trying to head and is very thin. The silage ground is looking very stressed and the post-first cut slurry application is still visible.
It is a tricky year to be farming on greensand, which makes up much of our farm, but with these weather extremes any soils are difficult.
The cows are being fed haylage at milking time and we have increased concentrate feed in the parlour, to try to make the grass last. After the tricky, expensive spring, we could well have done without this extra cost. The cows are milking well and seem contented which is the important thing.
With the forecast looking dry well into July, we will be forced to open the silage clamp, but I keep putting it off. It will eventually rain and I am hoping we will be able to make some bales later in the year.
AI breeding has now finished and the bulls are now running with the herd. Breeding seems to have gone well and we are hoping for a much tighter calving block next spring, which will be our third year of totally spring calving.
We are going to try to overseed a bare field with forage rape before a full grass reseed in the autumn. I will try to water it in with parlour washings, but I think I will wait a few days in the hope the heat subsides.
A plus side to the weather means a lot of hay has been made and stored dry. Also, the farmer tan is looking good this year and I have not had to leave these shores.
It must also be a great relief for event organisers to have them in the dry after so many events over recent years having to be cancelled.
I have enjoyed watching my son play numerous games of cricket these last few weeks for his school and the local village club and the heat does not seem to be hindering their good performance.