Hopefully, the poor spring weather is now a distant memory and we are in for a long, hot summer.

I have long prided myself in getting cattle out to grass early and it is always nice to see them out after a long winter.

Spring calving on the farm is targeted to take place around expected turn-out date. I aim to start calving in March, with the hope of getting them out by the second half of the month. Then the later-calving cows are turned out almost as soon as they calve.

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, it stops the build-up of disease in the house. Secondly, my aim is to try and get excellent-quality grass into the cows to boost their milk production and also have them in good body condition for subsequent breeding.


March was exceedingly difficult this year with all the rain. Cows calved away and numbers built up with no hope of getting anything out. I had cows and their calves everywhere. Then there was limited straw, which made it exceedingly difficult to keep them clean.

Eventually, on 1 April, I could put up with it no longer and I put out a few groups of cows and calves. Given that I had been able to spread both slurry and urea early on, it meant I had good covers of grass.

None of this helped. Cows were very unsettled. They trampled the fields, destroying the grass and damaging the soil. It was not pleasant looking. Eventually I had to bring them in again. Cows were in and out for most of the month of April. At the end of April, I turned them out for good (or not so good). They continued to do a lot of damage and up until this recent dry spell, they were very unsettled. I kept them moving quickly around the paddocks to try and minimise the damage.

They have been getting a fill of grass and anytime that they were back in the house I was feeding them meal and excellent-quality silage. Everything was as good as I could have done, considering the conditions. The problem is that I am not happy with what I see in the field. I am extremely disappointed with how the calves are looking. In my opinion, they are way behind where they should be.

Up and down

I calve in a very short window, so normally my calves are all very similar in age and size. This year they are up and down. Some are looking good and some are very poor, as if they have not got enough milk.

Then I look at the cows and it is a completely different story. Most are rolling in fat and they are coming into season very quickly. Every day there are five or six of them looking for the bull.

This is really bugging me. My best guess for what has happened is that the cows went dry (well, partially dry). It looks like all the upset with being in and out has had a detrimental impact on lactation.

I do not really know what more I could have done, but it has made me think about next year. Should I be calving the cows a little bit later? There are several issues with this. I will have smaller calves at housing, which could complicate my system. Then there could be issues with eligibility conditions for the new suckler cow payment.

I do not really know what to do for the best, as next spring could be completely different.

However, my biggest concern is the here and now. Should I creep-feed my calves? I hate the thought of creep-feeding calves, but I might have to.