Maize crop desperately needs sun – like we all do!

Gwyn Jones' Farm Diary
Gwyn Jones' Farm Diary

Difficult to believe that we are now in summer after another wet week, where rain fell every day until Friday making any progress on land work impossible and puts us well behind with the last area of maize to drill.

I managed (just) to keep travelling with the grazing machine at Crouchlands which was a good test, as cows would certainly not be grazing in these conditions, and their grass was delivered to them twice a day fresh, and rather wet which they don’t mind. I am still struggling to recover the drop in milk mid-May, caused by the poor grass silage re-bagged from our clamps last year, and although I have made some good progress by replacing it with fresh grass, the butterfat has now dropped.

Having been cut once already, the paddock I am now ‘grazing’ is nice and green behind the machine with every bite of good quality grass being very much to the cows’ approval, but not exactly the material which will boost butterfat. Protein levels are good which indicates decent energy levels, but although we have chopped straw in the ration, overall we are going to struggle with fat until better weather comes along.

Is this machine the right answer? I’m not sure, but given that we are short of grass silage, if the cows are going to stay in I had to do something. With the weather as it is, we would have had no option but to feed the poor silage and spoil everything, or open our first cut made only two weeks ago as soon as possible to save the day. This would run out by the autumn, particularly as we were not able to cut all the acres, and our first cut part two will now only make silage fit for the digester in about a week or two’s time if weather improves. Yes, we will have a very good second cut, but only on the acres we cut the first time, and it will not be nearly enough to see us through.

There are of course options to buy a standing crop of wheat and silage it, and I have bought some fodder-beet for a trial next winter, but these are expensive options and would not fill the gap. Our maize crops have got going and are looking good, however there is a lot of weed in the early drilled maize and we sprayed some of it for the second time at the weekend; just managing to travel on the sand, but leaving some ruts in the heavier ground. We do not know yet if this year is going to be good or bad for maize, but crops are a bit yellow and suffering in the wet and cold. It desperately needs some sunshine as we all do, and the weekend was a boost.

The heifers at Tillington are gamely grazing away, with so much grass in front of them to eat before we regain control. It looks more likely that silage might need to be made and taken home to Crouchlands. We are not talking of much quantity or acres here, just enough to keep grazing under control and I really do not want the expense of hauling a small parcel of silage back home if I can help it. We will know in another week if there is any chance of keeping on top of all this grass, and to give them their due the heifers seem to be consuming vast quantities, as if they know that to maintain quality and get on to a more manageable feed, they need to give it their best shot. They would also like to see some sunshine.

I hope to apply the second dressing of nitrogen fertilizer to grass silage area at Crouchlands this week if weather allows, but it’s looking rather unsettled and wet again, which is frankly unbelievable. We are now in June, and surely the weather must change soon? There is no chance of spreading any digestate from the Anaerobic Digester on the land as fertilizer; that will have to wait until after second cut weather permitting. On the bright side everything looks very green, the trees and hedgerows we planted this year are enjoying perfect weather to take root; and the nightingale has given up for another year!

Front pages of the press last week claimed that ‘British girls are the fattest in Europe’! Little wonder I thought seeing that they are fed daily on a diet of Cameron, Milliband, Clegg and Farage. Democracy is not perfect is it? Last week, voters took revenge on the main political parties which is entirely understandable, but some very good hardworking people who have done well for those they represent find themselves unceremoniously thrown out, and then watch as the main parties pick up the votes next year in the general election which people generally take more seriously.

The Liberal Democrats have started to bay for blood, and are split between those who think that Nick Clegg is a brave man who has not only taken them to power, but could hold the balance of power after the election next year as well, be it a coalition with Labour or indeed the Conservatives again. Others feel that Clegg has destroyed what they stand for and practically eliminated their support in the process. Many Liberal Democrats do not want power, they rather like being where they have traditionally been; in opposition. A botched coup which had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Vince Cable has failed, but Nick is in danger.

Milliband is under attack from some in his party and is keeping his head down, hoping that the Conservatives will lose the election with the assistance of UKIP, handing him the keys to Number 10. David Cameron? He seems to be happier with his Liberal Democrats coalition partners than many in his own party who hold him in contempt for losing the last election and not being Margaret Thatcher! Will he ride on a wave of economic prosperity towards a majority government next year? If he does he will have the anti-Europeans immediately on his back, if he doesn’t he will be in a very difficult position of choosing to share power with the liberal Democrats again which many in his party loathe, or operating a minority government in difficult times.

Will the UKIP earthquake as it is now called carry on? Can they continue with their quest to change British politics? I doubt it, but one never knows. I fail to see what the three leaders can do to change people’s opinion of them and the general sense of giving up on politicians. We could be heading for dangerous times if the percentage of people who take an active interest in voting falls further, with an increasing number of disaffected citizens believing that an elected government does not represent them. UKIP may have done us all a favour if they manage to bring contrast and renewed interest into our democratic system.