Tuesday, 13 September 2011

How we in the UK moan about the Weather (for no good reason)

Here in the UK we are feeling the tail end of hurricane Katia, it has swept across the Atlantic and it is clipping across northern England with 70 mph winds. For us down in the midlands (30 miles North West of Birmingham) we have had reportedly 50 mph wind. This is very rough weather for us with the temperature still mild for the time of year, think the average temperature this last month has been around 24C. (75F) It may have just touched a high of 30C. (86F.)  and down to a low of 18C. (64) 

As have mentioned before, we have been the driest area of Britain for the last three months, this last week we have had some sharp long shower that has greened the grass up for the cattle. As the clouds come in from the west they seem to be parted by the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdonia and then any rain clouds track north and south of us, were left high and dry. (well not very high)

We have an area of peat ground that been a god send for us, having mown it in late July for bale silage, and since has been grazed by the cows with calves.

Another thing , we are only 240 foot above sea level, the small village stream runs into the river Sow near the local town, then on into the river Trent all heading East and all slow flowing. ( sometime think if there were a very high tide, it would back up the rivers all the way back to the Midlands)

Here in UK if we get a bit of snow it stops all the traffic, that’s town/city traffic folk do not respect the fact they cannot stop, (until the cars bounce off each other ) we moan if its too wet, moan if its too dry  but in fact we should be grateful for living in such a mild and pleasant climate.

I have never realised how other farmers suffer and endure such extremes of weather, the very high temperatures and very low, the hurricanes and tornadoes, until I got to converse with other farmer in US.

If I drive east two hours or west we fall in the sea, that’s if the motorway is not blocked by an accident, it is said that traffic will back up 25 miles in less than half an hour, then all side roads and short cuts get blocked by the volume of vehicles finding alternative routes and often half a day to get dispersed again. 

I grow an area of Maize, which I grow for a neighbouring dairy farmer; he will be chopping it in a few weeks in time to go in his silage pit. Very little if any gets combined as grain maize in GB due to the damp weather in the back end, the grains would never mature. We do get some frost but never get any extremes like over the pond, I hear about combining maize in very frosty condition in US of A.

 Looking back to Maize, what is silking?, I know the silk tassels on the cob, but at what stage is the grain on the cob when you say it just silking,

Over here when the grains are at the cheesy stage the whole crop is cut for silage mainly to feed dairy cows.


  1. Silking is when the silk appears on the cob which is the signal that the corn is pollinating. It takes thirty to forty days from silking until the (very wet and immature) grain is on the cob, and then another period of time while the kernels fill with starch until the grain is fully mature *this stage is called black layer). To maximize test weight and speed drydown, grain corn needs to be fully mature before any threat of frost. This was often a concern for us in Ontario as we could get a killing freeze at any time after September 15th, and some times much earlier than that. Corn grows best in places with hot summer days (85-95 degrees) and relatively cool nights (60-70 degrees). Here in Tennessee we are often too hot at midsummer for corn to grow in an ideal manner.

    Ideally, we cut corn for silage when the kernals are at one half milk line or slightly before. Corn left later than this quickly lignifies, especially in hot weather. Here in Tennessee, early planted corn silage might be cut from mid July through the end of August. During this time frame, temperatures are often in the mid to upper 90's during the day and in the mid to upper 70's during the coolest time of night.

  2. Thanks Jason, ours now is about the "Black layer" stage. In the early days of using maize for silage in UK it was only the contractors that had machines capable of chopping maize, by the time they came to us this one year we had had frost and the grains too dry. When we dug the silage out and fed it, the grains came through the cows’ whole.
    To counter that some farmers ran pigs with the cattle, to glean out and eat the undigested grain, be it maize or wheat

    The choppers now have a pair of rollers that crush the grain as its chopped, the same thing happens with wheat, a lot of wheat is chopped as whole crop silage in our parts particularly if it been dry and short of grass, as it has this season.

    I’m too old and lost all my gusto these days to be bothered with new crops to grow and feed, but one of my neighbours wanted some land to grow extra maize, so I am an observer (observe with interest particularly the big new machinery they come with) on how the younger chaps run the modern dairy farm.