DOES a wet and dismal day in September mean this summer is over? I'm not ready to write it off quite yet, and anyway, we could have an Indian summer just to complete the wonderful season we've had.
The Met Office describes an Indian summer as a warm, calm spell of weather occurring October and November. Wouldn't that be great?
After 2011 and 2012 this year has come as considerable relief to the farming community. The rush to conserve winter fodder (at its peak of condition) is always the same but the last two years made the timing of cutting, and the various attempts to harvest, a nightmare.
Getting it right has been virtually unachievable.
But this year grass crops have been cut when at their peak and made into quality hay or silage. Most cereal (wheat, barley and in some cases oats) have been easily harvested with little need to use expensive drying facilities. Some barns may not be as full as farmers may have hoped for, due to the late drilling and the start of grass growth, but the summer weather has certainly made real compensation for it.
Still remaining to be harvested are the fields of forage maize. Forage maize has now become an essential part of most dairy cow's winter rations (on some farms it is fed all year round to balance the protein rich grazed grass) and is well used on many beef and, occasionally, sheep farms.
It took nearly 5,000 years for the crop to be adapted to the British climate. Maize was first cultivated in tropical Mexico but it was only some 60 years ago that it was adapted to grow in the UK. Now refined and selected varieties have put maize high on the list of animal foodstuff for our farmed animals. It is a high cost crop to grow but is worth the investment.
Even though maize can stand nine feet tall, the feeding value of the cob portion is almost double that of the rest of the plant.
The cobs should form 50 per cent of the crops dry matter to give a high quality feed. Soon the giant harvesters will be singing their way through these crops, cutting and crimping every fraction of the plant so that the whole plant will ensile perfectly. The high starch product proves its worth especially when fed with the higher protein grass silage to provide a balanced diet.