Whilst cows are housed in dry barns and we fret over soggy fields, it won’t be long before our thoughts shift to grazing and slurry applications.
But whilst we wait, there's lots we can do to prepare for the better weather. With grass value at its highest in the spring, anything we can do to maximise spring grass growth will be time and money well spent. Here’s our recommendations for getting set up for the busy spring season:
Drawing up a nutrient management plan is something all farmers should be doing nowadays. A planned approach supports a more precise way of farming which in turn balances costs of inputs against expected outcomes, giving you confidence that your fertiliser investment is well placed.
Although it may take some time to put together, you’ll find that fields or paddocks can be grouped together to cut out duplication and whilst there is a regulatory requirement to do this now, there is also an incentive through the new sustainable farming incentive(SFI) scheme that should sweeten the deal for you.
Don’t wait until the day you want to use it to find out your fertiliser spreader isn’t working. Finding out you’ve got problems with your spreader in the field will cost you more money and valuable time.
Preventative maintenance will always cost you less money in the long run. Ideally, you will have cleaned it and greased moving parts after your last use and before storing it for the next season. You’ll have fewer problems with rodents eating through wires as there’s no food there for them to find and it’s much easier to detect damaged parts on a clean spreader which will prevent further damage and costly repairs.
If you didn’t have time to clean your spreader before storing it, then get it out now and give it a thorough clean and inspection to see if there is any obvious damage or need for repairs. Give it a good service to ensure optimum performance in the fields.
Whilst you’re maintaining machinery, get ahead and service your mowing equipment as well, that way you’ll be raring to go as soon as the first cut is ready to bring in.
Checking the calibration of your spreader vanes is the next step to ensure fertiliser is evenly applied. Different fertilisers have different physical properties such as particle size distribution, bulk density, shape and flow rate, all of which influence how they spread. Before you spread a particular fertiliser product, you should always check the spreader manufacturer’s table or phone app for the correct settings.
The recommendations made by manufacturers give information on how to set the spreader for optimum even spreading at the desired application rate (kg/ha) and at a specific working width.
Finally you need to look at the flow rate controller, this will impact how much fertiliser is applied per acre. Again, spreader manufacturers have freely available recommendations.
For the best possible spreading result you can perform a tray test using your particular combination of spreader settings and fertiliser. This will help fine tune the settings, so you can be sure that the fertiliser is spread evenly across the entire spreading width. You can hire an independent fertiliser spreader calibration expert to conduct these tests if you’re not confident.
One final thing you can do to get yourself ready for a busy grass growing season is to stock up on equipment such as pigtail posts and fence reels. If you’ve got everything to hand that you’ll need when you’re busy, everything will feel much more manageable and you may also see some cost benefits - buy things when everyone else is buying them and you may well see inflated prices. If you can anticipate what you’ll need, you’ll make your money go further and save time in the long run.
So whilst you eagerly await better weather and increased soil temperatures, get your ducks in a row so there’s no delay in acting when the weather does turn, because whilst we can’t control the weather, we can control our reaction to it.