"JUST because the silage pit is full doesn't mean that it contains the same amount of dry matter as usual," warned Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) beef specialist Gavin Hill.

In a briefing to farmers, Mr Hill offered advice on how to cope with the aftermath of the wet summer.

In essence, his message was to plan ahead. "Farmers need to analyse their silage and draw up appropriate diets for different classes of stock," he said, adding: "There is a lot of poor quality silage this year with low dry matter and farmers are finding that they are emptying their pits quicker than usual."

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Mr Hill advises farmers to think about buying straw now to help eke out their silage supplies.

"At £80-£100 per tonne, straw isn't cheap, but farmers should address the issue now rather than wait and run the risk of a late spring and prices soaring," he said.

Noting that in some areas the number of barren beef cows was as high as 15%, he added: "Cows are lacking flesh and liver fluke is widespread. There has been an increase in the number of barren cows being culled, but while the trade for fit cows has been good, leaner ones have been fetching a lot less."

He went on to advise farmers to feed leaner barren cows for sale at the turn of the year when the trade for cast cows traditionally improves. "It's also important to put condition back onto leaner, in-calf cows so that they are fit for calving. If that isn't done now and is left until later, the cows will feed their unborn calves rather than themselves. Farmers worried about running out of silage should also consider off-loading store cattle quicker than usual."

Turning his attention to the deplorable state of pasture in many areas, Mr Hill said that the SAC would be running a series of open days next spring to demonstrate different techniques of rejuvenating grassland using machines such as sward-lifters, sub-soilers and aerators.

THE Cumberland & Dumfriesshire Farmers' Mart had 42 cattle forward at its Christmas show and sale in Dumfries on Wednesday.

The championship was awarded to J Forsyth, Mid Bishopton, Whithorn, for a CharolaisX bullock that went on to fetch 340p per kg.

There were also 1069 prime lambs that sold to £82 per head and 181.2p and averaged 152.1p.

The 690 cast sheep forward saw heavy ewes sell to £102.50 for Texels and average £58.60, while light ewes peaked at £48.50 for Blackfaces and levelled at £34.80.

John Swan sold 1406 store and lightweight lambs in St Boswells on Wednesday that sold to £57 for Blackfaces and Texels, and averaged £45.54 and 145.1p.

United Auctions sold 581 store bullocks at Stirling on Wednesday to a top of 253.7p and an average of 193.5p (-1p on the week), while 439 store heifers peaked at 236p and levelled at 193.5p (+10.4p).

In the rough ring, 219 cast cows averaged 122.4p.