Well the Christmas tree is up and the house is decorated, much to the delight and excitement of the little Stanleys.
It is already mid-December and, before we know it, 2018 will be over.
I must admit I am looking forward to seeing the back of this year. It has been a challenging and frustrating farming year from start to finish, mostly due to extreme weather.
I think the hardest thing I have found was any plans went out of the window as circumstances changed and I reckon we got to Plan F on many occasions.
Hopefully we have learned a few things from this year and, going forward, we will try carry over more silage stocks as a buffer. We usually try to have a buffer, but the Beast from the East and planned herd expansion emptied the larder in spring.
We are now at a stable herd size after we started the transitional change over two years ago to a totally spring block calving herd. We will start to dry the herd off over the next few days and there will be no milk sold for seven weeks before we start calving in early February.
We will mineral bolus and fluke the herd at the same time. We have managed to source some reasonably priced baled silage and we will feed these along with some hay to the dry cows. I have recently seen some very expensive baled silage sold at more than double normal prices, which are not viable, but sadly a necessity in some circumstances.
The anticipated excitement of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) starting to pay 2018 Basic Payment Scheme claims has long past, sadly with no excitement or payment here, just a daily optimistic checking of the RPA website to see if our claim had moved off claim validation status. It will change one day soon, I am told.
The upside of feeding bales is the daily feeding and morning routine is much quicker than feeding out with the shear grab. We may consider more bales going forward. We did have plans to try self-feeding from the clamp face this winter, but now we will have to wait until next year.
I recently attended the MilkSure course provided by our vets and milk buyer. The aim of the course is to reduce through best practice the number of milk samples that fail antibiotic tests which have huge consequences directly for farmers and the whole industry.
This seems to be particularly important when the industry has been under so much more scrutiny in 2018 than ever before.
Next year is certain to bring challenges, changes and opportunities with Brexit and I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.