By Debbie James

Persistent cold and dry conditions are stunting grass and crop growth in Pembrokeshire, leaving many grassland farms already in a feed deficit situation.

Minimum temperatures in April were below average and, with little rain in the forecast, dairy and livestock farmers say the grass check is concerning.

For arable growers, moisture is needed for spring-sown crops to germinate.

Many are adapting grazing and crop management plans to mitigate the impact of the challenging growing conditions on their businesses.

Tom Rees grows 600 acres of combinable crops in Pembrokeshire.

While his crops of autumn-sown winter wheat and oil seed rape are well rooted he is concerned for the prospects of his spring wheat. Yields from that crop halved last year as a result of the dry spring conditions and with the weather following a similar pattern this year he admits it is a worry.

“We normally expect 2.5-3 tonnes an acre from spring wheat but last year it yielded 1.5 tonnes,’’ he says.

But he is in a better position to 2020 because unlike the autumn of 2019, when growers struggled to plant crops in very wet conditions, this year’s crops were drilled in good time.

Some growers are delaying forward selling grain, gambling on further gains in grain futures if supply slows, but Mr Rees said this is a risky strategy.

“I know my costs and if I can get a good margin, I’d rather take that than gamble on the markets because they are influenced by so many things. The UK is such a small player in the global markets.’’

On grassland farms, moisture is desperately needed to boost yield in first cut silage crops.

However Dr Dave Davies, of Silage Solutions, advises against delaying cutting when the base of the grass sward starts to die.

“Evidence from the field shows that if you cut it when it is at the leafy staff the residual will be more drought tolerant and the regrowth quicker because the plant hasn’t gone into the dormant stage.

“It will be ready for that rain when it does come, to burst into life and get going again.’’

But aim for a grass stubble of not lower than 7.5cm, he advises, as regrowth will be poor if the sward is cut any lower.