We still have no grass. I’m waiting patiently for the current warm weather to have its magic stimulating effect on the recalcitrant stuff. The cattle are not! As I write this, the perfect, here-at-last, golden-green evening is reverberating with deafening booming bellows, bouncing and crashing up from the yard just metres below me. This noise thunders around my head, twangs and plunks every taut stretched fibre in my body with insistent persistent discord. Of course this is exactly what it is meant to do. I, as number one food provider, am failing at my duty. The unrelenting bawling coupled with the compelling force of combined herd psyche is designed to send me into a spin, in much the same way as the cry of a newborn.
I’ll explain. Last year’s wet summer and very late harvest meant the forage we made was not as nutritious as usual. In the winter, when the cows are in-calf, this is not a problem. But now they are coping with the demands of their fast growing calves with an ever increasing need for milk. My cows are telling me they need plenty of accessible protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins as well as roughage, and last year’s haylage is not delivering. Fresh grass would!
Trouble is, the cold wet spring over the last two months has meant the ground is still soggy and producing little forage. Coupled with this, our landlord on the ground we normally turn out onto – our best drained land – has entered into an Environmental Stewardship Scheme which prohibits the use of round feeders. So we can’t put the cattle out just yet. It’s been a long winter, very nearly six months of looking after the herd indoors. And they are not stupid – they know full well they should be out by now – it’s close to summer and they can smell what fresh grass there is: it’s time to be munching that first delicious bite. So the psychological warfare escalates….