Each yearly cycle of events on the farm are identical and yet are always different, often due to the weather.
In an average year the cows would be turned out to grass mid April the grass having been harrowed, rolled and fertilized earlier in the year. Magnesium supplements to prevent grass staggers (Magnesium deficiency) have to be added to the cows’ drinking water.
Come the time we first open the gate after winter has passed is an amazing sight to see as the cows get a taste of fresh spring grass and they run around like fools for at least the first hour! Although the cows being out to graze cuts the workload around the farm buildings, it obviously takes longer to collect them up and bring them in for milking twice a day. Also at this time of year we prepared the ground and plant forage maize which late in the autumn will be turned into silage to feed the cows during the winter.
At the end of May/early June we will make our grass silage into round bales – later on to be fed to the cows and the young stock.
Due to the soil type at Wayside Farm which is very gravelly, even an average British summer tends to burn up3 our grass by the end of June, early July which means that often in the summer we have to supplement the cows’ grazing with some of the baled silage we made earlier during spring. We also have to source, bale and cart home enough straw for all the animals for their winter housing.
As we calf the cows all year round, a lot calve out in the fields – at all times of the day and night – which can produce moments of excitement, for example calves that can’t be caught as they take off around the field or a cow that decides that it doesn’t want its calf interfered with or moved.
Depending on the weather the cows would normally be housed for the winter by the end of September, early October. Also at this time the maize would be harvested and the cows would go onto the winter ration of maize silage, grass silage and dairy compounds. The young stock which like the cows have enjoyed their summer grazing are also housed and where possible are split into age groups.
This is a variable season sometime starting late September, I can remember 2 years ago the cows were out grazing until mid November. At this time of the year we are usually milking the cows in the dark at both ends of the day, as we always start milking at 5:30 a.m. and again at 5:00 p.m. 365 days a year. With all the cattle housed we spend a lot of time mucking out all the sheds, especially the milking cow housing which we clean out at least once a month for cleanliness and hygiene reasons.
All the manure is stored on the farm and eventually is spread back onto the grass and onto the land where we grow the maize.
In the coming days and weeks we will be adding to this and other pages on the website including:
Farming on the urban fringe
. . .watch this space!