Recent wet and windy weather meant farmers everywhere were waiting to begin many jobs that should have been done earlier.

The total rainfall for May was 124 mm, the wettest month here on Manor Farm this year. However the past week has been much better. The temperature rose, the rain stopped and there was plenty of sunshine to make us all feel that summer had arrived at last.

Tractors were on the move everywhere, catching up on much delayed field work. We mowed all our short term grass leys and just a few acres of permanent grass, which had a growing spurt with the change in the weather, so had become too long for our Anguses to graze.

After cutting the grass was left to wilt for about 36 hours before it was rowed up ahead of the forage harvester. The forage harvester picked up the grass and chopped it and at the same time an inoculant of bacteria was added. A lactobacillus and one other bacterium, plus a safe approved food additive makes up the inoculant. Lactobacilli occur naturally in the grass, but by adding a few more ensures a rapid fall in pH, giving fast, efficient fermentation.This will give an improved quality forage, retaining more nutrients. The rapid fall in pH will limit the production of unpalatable elements, such as those produced by protein-degradation. The chopped grass was taken to the silage clamp, where it was made into a wedge by a tractor with a push-off buck rake. It is essential to use the heavy tractor to roll the clamp of grass to expel as much air as possible, after which it is sealed with a plastic sheet. This is because an anaerobic fermentation is required to make the very best silage. The inoculant also helps the stability of the silage by preventing it overheating,especially at the face. This first cut on Manor Farm was equivalent to almost three cuts last year, due to the rain and very late cutting. A few days later Kevin cut his grass, using the same inoculant as us. He brought his grass back to Manor Farm, where it was put into another clamp and will be fed to his ewes during lambing in 2022. As with the other clamp, the grass was rolled and covered with a plastic sheet. Kevin’s crop was also very heavy .

The rain that fell the previous week prompted Ian to bring our Anguses back into the barn. They were beginning to poach the field they were grazing. “Poaching" means damage to grass and underlying soil in wet conditions brought about by livestock. As we still had straw and some of last year’s silage left in storage Ian was able to bed up his clean barn and leave the cattle in for a week. Before turning them out again they were treated with a fly repellent as the warm weather has brought the flies out in large numbers.

Another job which needed doing urgently on Manor and Chiverlins Farm was to spray some of the winter barley, wheat and oats with a fungicide and or herbicide. The products used were on the recommendation of our agronomist, who had walked the cropped fields and submitted a report.

Sheep work has also gained momentum. Apart from daily checking of the whole flock, now split into many groups grazing different fields in different locations, there were more March-born lambs old enough to be given their second vaccination to protect them against a number of clostridial bacteria, wormed and treated with a fly repellent to prevent fly-strike. Whilst this was being done all the lambs from the elite flock, which were grazing with the others, had their eight-week weights recorded. This is part of Kevin’s aim to constantly improve the quality of his flock, using the best genetics.