“Rain rain, go away, come again another day” – the theme song of the British farmer in early 2014. Each morning when we wake to hear the rain tapping on our windows, and the wind whistling around the house, it makes getting up that bit harder. In this weather when every outdoor job is a battle, spirits run low, and the everyday farm routine becomes a huge effort, we sometimes feel a bit like the trucks struggling to drive through our muddy fields.
Our lagoons are in dire need of emptying, and we are pumping slurry, or dirty water, whenever conditions allow. But no sooner have we made a little progress than the rain immediately reverses what we’ve achieved, and we’re back to square one. We have had a visit from the Environment Agency this week, which was not altogether a surprise, and we are heeding their advice, but at times like these you wonder, is it really possible to plan for this much rain? For weeks our lane has been awash with water, falling unabated from the sky, bubbling out of clogged up drains, and running through a yard, into one of the lagoons. We are putting a lot of time into this area at the moment, and are hoping that the weather will finally stop fighting against us, and give us respite enough to make some headway. Plans to redirect all rain water from the roofs to the clean water reservoir, and extend the capacity of one lagoon, have risen to the top of the pile, much like the levels in the lagoons themselves.
As the whole of East Sussex is now under annual TB testing, we have just finished this year’s tests, a process that has been made all the more enjoyable by the recent weather conditions. In all fairness the weather was relatively kind to us throughout testing, and the vets very efficient and helpful. Running every animal through the race also afforded us the opportunity of weighing our youngstock, Matt having recently purchased weighing equipment which uses an EID reader. We noted all the heifer’s weights at birth with a weigh band, and will now be able to study their growth rates, adapting feeding where necessary, and begin to plan ahead for turning out. Altogether we had four inconclusive reactors, and we pray for clear results for the repeat tests in 60 days.
Another struggle we have recently experienced is a major mastitis outbreak, due to a combination of poor weather conditions, parlour issues, and potentially a recent change in teat dip. We are seeking to combat all these factors, by rectifying the parlour problems, investing in sheeting to ensure that all cubicles are completely sheltered from the rain, and changing back to our former, more expensive, dip.
In contrast to the challenges we’ve faced in every other area, this calving block has been a great source of encouragement. We’ve had 65 calvings in the first six weeks of the spring block. The whole herd continues to milk well, averaging about 28 litres, at an average of 200 days in milk. Also our calves have been doing very well, despite a less-than ideal building and we have been glad to hear that our buyers have been very pleased with our AI bred Angus-cross calves.
It sometimes feels impossible to prepare for every eventuality in farming, each year could bring flooding, drought, power cuts, to name but a few, but all we can do is patiently chip away at our to do list. We keep going with alterations and adaptations, in parlour routine, in building improvements, by installing a new generator, and improving water and slurry storage, and we hope that what we have achieved in this year, will help us to be in a better position in the next.