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Farming diary - Grass given well-needed cut
Always a topic of conversation, the weather over the last week has not helped the flow of tasks on our farms.
We have had everything including overcast with rain, chilly breezes, torrential downpours and periods of warm sunshine.
Most of the 15mm of rain fell on Wednesday, a particularly miserable day, but at last the pressure line on our barograph is beginning to rise again.
All of my week has been taken up showing classes of school children from the ages of four to 11 around Roves Farm, where I work part-time.
This is a job I love doing – introducing these groups of youngsters to farm animals and pets, showing them growing crops and taking them through fields and woodland, passing streams, rivers and ponds on the way.
We did some pond dipping, bringing up pond life including minnows, diving beetles, water-boatmen, pond skaters, dragon-fly nymphs, may-fly nymphs and a very large tadpole.
The highlight of the week was hearing a cuckoo ,a sound I have not heard for several years.
Cuckoos are hawk-like birds, resembling sparrowhawks in shape and colour. They arrive here from Africa in April, leaving again in July.
The cuckoo has parasitic breeding habits, laying its eggs in the nests of songbirds such as dunnocks, meadow pipits and reed warblers, depositing a single egg in each nest.
Once hatched, the chick will eject the eggs and nestlings of the host bird to ensure it receives all the food the foster parent collects, to fuel its own fast growing body. Unfortunately the recent cooler, wetter springs and summers have not helped the cuckoo to increase in number.
On Stowell Farm, the first few days of the week were taken up by silage-making. On Monday, Kevin decided that it was now or never – the grass needed cutting and a short spell of fairly good weather was forecast.
Kevin began to cut the grass, soon being joined by Richard with our mower to speed things up a little. The grass was then left to wilt for 24 hours, before it was put into rows for the forage harvester to pick up.
Just to make sure the right fermentation would take place in the silage clamp, lactobacillus bacteria were added as the freshly chopped crop was picked up by the forage-harvester.
Late Tuesday evening it was in the silage clamp, but the forecast was for rain early the following morning. It was therefore decided that early on Wednesday morning everyone who was available would help to seal the clamp with a plastic sheet before the rain was due to start. Fortunately the clamp was covered just in time!
Here on Manor Farm, David, our nutritionist, was called in to go through the milking cow ration once again.
It seems that the diet is still lacking fibre, as the butterfat percentage has not recovered properly. The cows are still out on grass by day and in by night, receiving a balanced forage diet. It was decided that to the maize silage, we would add a little more chopped wheat straw – also, the bought-in balancer would contain dried sugar-beet pulp and soya-bean hulls to boost the fibre content.
Ian has now sprayed our winter wheat with its final fungicide and Richard has been topping some of the grazed fields, which have become a little untidy.
Topping these pastures will remove the unpalatable grass, allowing fresh regrowth for future grazing, as well as removing any patches of weeds such as nettles, thistles and docks before seeding.
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