Fertilisers and feeds go in at Manor Farm

This Is Wiltshire: The heifers relax in their grassy surroundings The heifers relax in their grassy surroundings

What a chilly week, ending with a cloudy, damp and thoroughly miserable day.

On a walk across the grass fields on Manor Farm, there were signs that some of the growing leaves were also feeling a little cold, as the tips were tinged with blue.

The grass that had been growing well seems to have made very little growth during the last week, with temperatures falling low enough to give overnight frosts.

Midweek, on a day that the weather was more favour-able, Ian managed to spray some of the winter barley ground with a fungicide and manganese, as advised by our agronomist.

Kevin was also spraying, but he was using a herbicide to desiccate the weeds on the over-wintered stubble and fields of stubble turnips that had been grazed by the sheep.

These fields will be cultivated and planted with peas.

Fertilising has been another task done on Stowell Farm.

Kevin has managed to put fertiliser containing both nitrogen and sulphur on to his winter wheat and oilseed rape.

Sulphur is an essential element in crop production, with crops needing high nitrogen usually needing high levels of sulphur to produce better yields.

Nowadays, there are less sulphur impurities in modern fetilisers, as well as reduced industrial emissions in the atmosphere, so it is often necessary to add sulphur.

Both sulphur and nitrogen are involved in chlorophyll formation, as well as many other essential processes within plants.

There are a few fields on Manor Farm which often get badly affected by rabbit damage, but this year the damage is minimal.

In some of the fields of barley, Rex, our agronomist, spotted some wild oats.

I was shown some features on the wild oat plants which differentiated them from barley. One was the hairs along the lower edges of the leaves of the wild oat, which are absent on the barley.

Another was the difference in the auricles, which are wrapped around the stems at the base of the leaves on the barley, but not on the wild oat.

Wild oats are an important weed of cereal crops, becoming conspicuous when their tall panicles stand above those of the crop.

It was once again time for a visit from David, our nutritionist. The last butterfat test for our bulk milk sample gave a reading of 4.25 per cent, which is a good improvement on that of a few weeks ago.

Therefore, it was decided that the dairy cow diet must now be “spot on”, to quote David.

As part of their balanced ration, the cows have eaten 30 tonnes of grass silage and 90 tonnes of maize silage this March. Feeding at this rate, we should have enough maize to last until the next maize crop is harvested in autumn.

The last milk recordings were taken on March 22, with an average milk yield per cow of 38.36 litres, compared with the same day last year, when it was 32.57 litres. Lillie, our top cow, gave 63.77 litres on recording day and has been in milk for 56 days, since her last calf was born.

There are several reasons for the improvement in milk yields over the last year; one is that the better weather last summer improved the condition of the cows going into winter and also enabled us to conserve more good quality silage, so we have been able to feed a better balanced diet while the animals are housed over winter.

Our in-calf heifers, due to give birth in the autumn, were turned out to grass on March 25.

The cubicle barn they were in was becoming rather slippery, so it was decided that the field next to the barn had dried enough to let them out.

They were quite excited, breaking through an electric fence twice before settling down to munch on the new spring grass.

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