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Vice President's Blog - 3 July 2018

“How are your post-Highland blues?” asks Vice President Gary Mitchell

“It’s hard to believe that only 10 days has passed since the Royal Highland Show.  Because the sun has not stopped shinning since then, it has certainly helped my blues.  What an an excellent display of livestock, machinery and many other exhibitors which all make up our rural economy.

“I always feel it’s four days in the year when you feel great pride in being part of such an industry producing the finest food.

“One of the meetings I attended at the show was the weather advisory panel.  When I joined this panel last year, we talked about the continued rain, snow and forage shortages etc.  Never did I think in eight-months’ time, we would be talking drought. Let’s start with the positives. Hay quality and quantities must be at an all-time high for Scotland, which means less plastic to dispose of this winter.

I wish I had planted maize this year.  It’s looking exceptional anywhere in Dumfries and Galloway at the moment.  It’s also great to see cracks appearing in the heavy land which is as good as subsoiling and long overdue with the past few summers we’ve had.

The negatives are grass is disappearing rapidly especially on the lighter soils.  We do ‘zero grazing’ at home which started on 4th April (a month later than normal) but this will finish this week as we are just trimming the last green leaf’s so ‘grazing zero’ will start at weekend.

Patricia Boyle from Met Office gave an update to the Weather Advisory Panel on forecasting and a pretty dry month lies ahead.  The Met Office believes it can be fairly accurate up to 30 days.  I feel if knew rain wasn’t forecast for 30 days then my management decisions between cuts of silage would be different.  At harvest, it would be useful in deciding straw management, or for irrigation plans in potato and veg sector and of course in rotational grazing depending on soil type.

“Of course, long range forecasting cannot be accurate down to when the next shower is coming but we definitely need, more than ever, to understand our ever-changing seasons.

“So, plan now for the winter.  My advice is to graze cattle on the best grass and don’t keep stock hungry just to make more silage because if this continues for another month any silage hopes will have withered.

“On straw use, can you change your current system to use less?  Should you carry less stock through the winter?

“I have already had one farmer in the North East offering wintering for stock this year.  If you are looking stock accommodation, let us know at NFUS and we can put you in touch.

“Going forward, I believe businesses either need to grow (so they can afford labour) or start collaborating.  The latter one is the least cost and really effective when farmers come together, share fixed costs, expertise and resource.  The generation just past was about being an independent farmer in your own right, but as we head into a post-Brexit future, joined up thinking is the way forward for sure.

“And if you are at Doune & Dunblane show this Saturday (7 July), please call in to the NFU Scotland stand for a chat.”

Links to Met office: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/forecast
https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/mobile/forecast/

Author: Gary Mitchell

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