Jen Hall is busy organising practice meetings for farmers and stockmen, alongside meeting a demand for ongoing TB tests as farmers hope and prepare for better weather.
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Earlier in the year, during those long winter months, the girls in the office said to me: ‘How do you cope being out in the cold and the wet all the time, it must be horrible?’ I replied, ‘It's the thought of those lovely summer months, when everyone else is stuck inside and I'm out in the sunshine that keeps me going.’ I could not have been more wrong and, thus, I feel I must take some responsibility for the terrible wet weather we've had in the past month by tempting fate so brilliantly! I hate to be one of those boring people who constantly talks about the weather, but the recent rain has made me realise how much the agricultural industry is affected by the climate.
The farmers are so frustrated; some of them managed to get their silage cut during the dry patch, others missed the boat, and there is now the worry that the maize crop won't have enough sun – some of the plants are already looking a bit yellow.
While the rain is good for grass growth, there are a lot of other issues that come hand in hand with wet fields – mastitis being a major one, as cows get muddy udders from the sodden ground. Paddock rotation becomes even more important, and although some of our farms are lucky to have free-draining sandy soils, others are based on clay, which results in a quagmire at the gateways and around feed and water troughs. A few of our farmers resorted to buffer feeding early on to try to increase energy levels. The weather also means that instead of work becoming quieter, we are still doing TB tests left, right and centre, as farmers are keen to get them done in case of good weather over the next few weeks.
It is not all doom and gloom, however: the grass is growing and cows seem to be milking well. Lots of our sheep farmers seem to have made good money on the sale of their first crop of lambs and are now beginning to think about the next breeding season. I am organising three courses at the practice over the next month – one on ram breeding soundness, one on sheep parasite control and one on calf rearing. I've got my work cut out getting everything ready, but I'm really excited at the prospect of adding a new skill to my repertoire, and having the opportunity to spend time teaching some of our farm workers.