After the longest, wettest, most challenging period of weather that anyone can remember, you might wonder how to find any sort of silver lining. Well, I managed it, and can only draw the conclusion that an ill wind must have blown a bit of good in my direction.

About six weeks ago I really was feeling pretty low. Apart from dealing with the most appalling field conditions since last autumn, the continuing scourge of TB (and the impact on my dairy heifer rearing enterprise) was giving me headaches too.

The ongoing issue with the dairy farm’s TB outbreak saw them planning to take back our older heifers to replace lost stock (they weren’t allowed to buy in replacement cows until they had at least one clear test).

The idea was for the older heifers to leave here before going to grass, and I had no idea how to replace them with anything that didn’t look like a masterplan in blowing a small fortune. And then that awful weather came to the rescue.


Just as I was having recurring nightmares about going out in the month of April to buy store cattle (nor was I allowed to buy in until there were no cattle on the farm, despite no TB present here), I received a phone call from my dairy client.

He was completely out of silage, and the New Zealand system of grazing freshly calved cows was causing huge problems with fields that had never dried since last year’s mauling.

Furthermore, he wondered if we could just hold onto the bulling heifers like other years.

Honestly, my mood wouldn’t have lifted more rapidly if you had given me £100,000. In one instant, all my worries evaporated.

His plan had altered slightly and he hoped to buy in some freshly calved cows if the next test was clear (it was) and also make extra silage. It must be the only time in my farming life that bad weather has worked heavily in my favour.


Funnily enough, my ecstatic mood gradually disappeared along with my silage reserves as the weeks rolled by, and the fields got no drier. When I was down to four round bales, I spied an opportunity and on 27 April, thirty heifers went skipping out to grass (perhaps churning is a more apt description). Field conditions were tender to say the least, but a bit of kindly spring weather would sort things out.

Three days later (after 16mm rain overnight), I put the heifers back into the house.

I think the single worst bit of it all is that awful sucking, squelching noise that cattle make as they walk across saturated land.

Strip grazed

Forty-eight hours later, I put them out again and strip grazed them behind the electric fence. This would ensure that fresh grass was available every morning, and I firmly believe it curtails them from that relentless walking around wet fields. This also made me feel like I had some sort of control of the situation and wasn’t letting the weather dictate to me.

Three days later (5 May) and loser Derek put them in again.

As before, forty-eight hours after housing (which included a TB test and the start of the synchronised AI programme) they went back to grass and have remained there since.

Someone told me that the worst thing for heifers during their AI programme is any sort of daily change or upheaval so it will be interesting to test that theory when it comes time to pregnancy diagnose them.


Funnily enough, since the day they were AI’d (16 May) things have improved beyond recognition.

There is plenty of grass, the heifers are shining, a young Hereford bull is getting friendly with them, and I am still moving the electric fence every day - not, as was the case last year, to eke out grass supplies or stop them severely poaching fields, but just because it is one of my favourite jobs on this farm.

On a fine summer’s morning, there is very little to equal the natural endorphin release of listening to livestock shearing off large mouthfuls of fresh grass - just as long as it isn’t raining.