19 September 1997

£20 A COW FROM CLOVER AND GRAZING

MIXED forages, better use of clover and extending the grazing season into the autumn could improve profits by £20 a cow on one Cumbrian unit.

Malcolm Slack runs 180 cows and 90 followers at a stocking rate of 2.79 cows/ha (1.1/acre) on his Hartlaw Farm, Silloth.

Cows are rotationally set stocked during the grazing season and the winter diet is grass silage-based. The 7368-litre herd produces 4118 litres from forage.

Turnout, at the beginning of April, was early for the location. In the autumn cows are housed in mid to late October.

Our troubleshooter, DRC consultant John Bax, felt that by grazing for three to four hours a day another three or four weeks grazing was possible. Extra grazing in this way could increase yields by up to two litres a cow, he said. That was well worthwhile given just one litre a cow for 25 days would be worth £750 in milk.

Silage use would also fall by 4kg DM a head a day for the extra period of grazing. That 18t of silage saved had cost £1200 to produce, added Mr Bax.

He also advised that if yields were going to rise further, whole-crop could benefit cow health and reduce the risk of poor quality grass silage damaging performance. As whole-crop was cheaper than grass silage to make it would also save Mr Slack £1800 if 10ha (25 acres) was grown.

John Bax and Malcolm Slack… improving forage use efficiency.