How deep is the problem

Look at soil structure and paddock damage in this wet weather.

"I was on a farm yesterday that, like many, is experiencing record amounts of rain," Piers Badnell, DairyCo extension officer says. "We walked the paddocks to get a good idea of the grazing situation and looked at the lows, who have grazed through the season and are doing a good job despite the rain.

"The state of the majority of paddocks were reasonably good but a couple, where cows had been on several times and on the worst wet days, were showing signs of potential soil damage and need an eye kept on them.

"In one of these paddocks we found that it was very wet in the top 10cm or so of soil, with water obviously not draining away," he explains. "We wanted to find out if the whole soil was water logged so dug a deeper hole and at about 30cm deep we found a plough pan, the field had been wheat last year and was put into grass last September. Below this pan the soil was dry.

"Although there is nothing we can do now about this situation we need to think about plans for this paddock in order to get better drainage in the future, and get cows grazing it longer in wet periods.

"The plan is to look again in September and, if conditions are still the same, look at using a sward lifter to break the pan and improve the drainage for next year."

Piers continues: "We dug another hole in another paddock that was underperforming and found a slight panning in the top layer, as a result of repeated cow traffic in the wet weather.

"Again we'll go back and look in September but we may need to think about what to do. In certain soils worm activity may work to rectify the situation, or in clay soils a bit of wet and dry (the rain will stop eventually!) may help. If not it's worth thinking about a slit aerater to break the pan and get the soil working again.

"Another field had been knocked about a bit in the wet with some roots showing from foot damage, a clear sign the sward is damaged. We'll look again in September when the grass will have maximised its tillering and may have rectified itself. If not the paddock will be raked and some grass seed will be spread to patch the bare areas and even the surface.

"Finally I attended the British Grassland Society (BGS) Summer Tour to south west Wales this week. We saw some excellent farms and there were plenty of ideas to take home and use. If you want to see this sort of thing, join BGS and get on the tour next year to Cumbria," Piers concludes.