Up here in the Yorkshire Dales, where most of the farms are grassland farms (on the
whole the soil is not deep enough for arable) every farmer is judged by the state of his grass at this time of the year - at least by other farmers. You may think that grass is grass, is grass but next time you pass a grass field - or several - look at them carefully.
In Winter the grass tends to die off in clumps and to look ragged and dismal. Then, when the land is dry enough it is fertilised, mucked, harrowed, rolled and - hopefully - rained upon - and then it begins to grow.
Here, as I look out of the window, or as I walk across the fields with Tess, I am struck by the greenness. Suddenly new grass is sprouting up, new, dark green, nutritious grass. It is already a couple of inches high and growing fast.
The cows, still indoors in their Winter housing, can smell it and they are restless - lots of mooing, lots of pacing up and down, lots of noses in the air. But the time is not ripe yet for letting them out. The grass needs to be quite a bit longer and the days a bit warmer. Last weekend we had a really warm spell and, boy, were those cows desperate to get out, but now there is a cold wind and the weather is not so good.
On the day the cows are let out the grass needs to be nice and long, the sun needs to be shining, the conditions need to be right. Of course, if the farmer runs out of silage for indoor feeding he may have to let them out early, but all things being equal they will go out on such a day. If you get the chance and live anywhere near a milking herd, do go out to watch the spectacle.
Tails in the air, legs hurtling through the grass, back ends up in the air, cries of joy and - finally - settling down to eat the best grass they have tasted is six months. And, best of all, that night the milk yield will have shot up as a thank-you to the farmer. For this first grass of the season is highly nutritious - it never again will reach that degree of nutrition - that is why it is so important for the farmer to get it right.
Well, the day for letting out is nearly here - I look forward to it. Hope you see it too.