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In your field: Mike Harris - 'Our senior stock bull has been given the summer off'

Looking back at an entry in a previous year’s diary is always a stark reminder of how two years are never the same, and possibly more so when you are a farmer.

Last year, we made first cut silage on May 9. This year it was a month later, with a combination of unseasonably cold spring weather stifling grass growth and then, when conditions were right, our contractor was faced with a backlog of work, with ever-increasing grass yields making each job more time-consuming.

 

Having had three consecutive years of summer droughts in Dorset, we have now made a bumper crop of silage, with more grass yet to mow for hay and possibly a second cut of silage.

 

As is usual with the trials and tribulations of farming, one piece of good news is followed by something not quite as welcome, and this was very much the story this month.

 

Our annual herd TB test, which is soon to become a six monthly test in the South West, was carried a few weeks ago. Even though we have been fortunate enough to escape the dreaded disease so far, the test reading day was, as usual, awaited with a certain amount of nervousness.

 

Once again though, the result was a clear test and we could breathe a huge sigh of relief. Unfortunately though, on the second day of the test when rounding the cows and calves up, it became obvious that our senior stock bull was struggling with a leg injury.

 

A swollen hock presumably sustained while carrying out his business has now lead to him being given the rest of the summer off.


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As the cows are now without a bull running with them, I had to make a quick decision about a plan B, so I decided I would buy a few straws of semen from the Hereford Cattle Society.

 

Having never used AI previously, heat detection has now become part of the daily routine. So far I have been awarded full marks for my detection skills by Sally, our AI technician. Just a few more weeks to go.

 

The lateness of spring this year has affected the grass growth and also the new hedge plants we have put in on-farm. On the whole, the plants are looking well, but wind burn has been a noticeable consequence, with a few plants not surviving at all.

 

While we have been doing our bit for the environment, it has been disappointing once again to see Dorset Council contractors cutting the verges on minor roads in our area, including the one that bisects our farm.

 

I have never understood the logic of this environmental vandalism where there is no danger of a driver’s vision being obscured, let alone the fact taxpayers’ money is being unnecessarily wasted.

 

One neighbour even took it upon herself to stop the tractor driver from doing any more cutting, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

Our parish council is now drawing up plans to identify particular plant species growing in the verges and this information will be passed on to local government. Hopefully, in future years the majority of the flora and fauna will remain intact.

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