Looking at leys


Fifth generation farmer James Cossins says it’s time to explore new (old) ways to maintain cattle feed through the summer
Combining at Rawston Farm in the 1960s

Over the last two months we have been busy harvesting our grass crops into silage clamps, silage bales and hay – all to be winter feed for our cattle. In Dorset it has been a dry season, and the showers we have experienced are more of a hindrance – especially when trying to make hay!
It seems that every year at this time grass growth stops which means that some cattle have to be supplemented with additional forage. We are currently using last year’s silage bales to keep the milking cows performing.
To counter this, we are looking at sowing some herbal leys – following the example of many organic farmers who find these leys productive in dry weather, and perform well without any additional inorganic fertiliser.
The majority of modern productive grassland consists of less than five different plant species, and are often composed of just two – perennial ryegrass and white clover. A herbal ley has a combination of 15-40 different grass, legume, and herb species like clover, chicory, plantain, sainfoin and ryegrasses. They are left down for around five years before returning to arable for two or three years. In addition to providing forage, the leys also improve soil structure, add fertility and suppress weeds. This is all part of regenerative farming – something we will hear a lot more about in the future.

Looking towards harvest
Our arable crops are beginning to ripen off now. Harvesting is likely to start by the middle of July, with the winter barley crop being the first to harvest followed by our oilseeds. The crops look promising but you can never be sure until they are in the barn! With prices all over they place the marketing of these crops will be a challenge, some can vary by £20 a day. We have marketed some crops already, taking advantage of what seemed like a good price on that day. With fuel prices nearly double last year’s levels, fertiliser still very expensive and general inflation rising, the financial outcome on this years harvest will be interesting.

Tb clear finally
Our recent Tb test gave us reason to celebrate; a second clear test after 18 months of testing every 60 days. We can now sell cattle to a wider market at sensible price levels. We will also not have to test for another six months which is a considerable relief. Lets’ hope we can continue to remain clear. Apparently the Tb vaccination programme may be rolled out in 2025, and although according to our vets it will not be 100% effective, at least it is a step in the right direction to eradicating this disease.

Louise Stratton with her leaving gift

In other news
It is great to see the Agricultural shows back this year. In Dorset we have three great shows – the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show, the County Show at Dorchester and the Melplash Show. Great days out for everyone.
The picture below shows our retiring NFU County Adviser Louise Stratton with a painting of her current horse donated by Dorset farmers. Louise has been a regular writer for the BV but now moves to pastures new within the agriculture industry, and we welcome Gemma Harvey as her successor.
As we move into July lets hope the weather is kind to for harvesting and everyone can stay safe in the fields and on the roads.

Sponsored by Threthowans – Law as it should be


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