26 September 1997

Economy

& home-grown forage aims

PRODUCE more milk from home-grown forage, and spend nothing on things you dont really need. That just about sums up the how milk producers visiting the Dairy Event intend to cope with a lower milk price.

Fortunately, David Rose has reinvested heavily in the last couple of years at Village Farm, Emmington, Oxon. "We arent spending anything on buildings beyond the bit of concrete grooving and installing mattresses which weve already done," he said.

"We also hope to extend the grazing. Its been an exceptional year for grass." But he admitted that how long the extra grazing will be depend on the weather.

In the longer term, he considered he would have to try to do everything even better than before for the 175 Holsteins averaging 7500 litres. That might mean, for instance, reassessing herd replacement policy. "Weve been compulsive breeders of replacements. Well have to sell them or cut back on the numbers we rear."

Former FW Focus Farmer John Downes was at Stoneleigh with his son Tim. Their 110 Friesians average 6000 litres, of which 4150 comes from forage.

"Well continue to try to produce more food from our own resources," said Mr Downes senior. "The aim is 5000 litres from forage."

This year theyve added lupins to their red clover and ryegrass at The Farm, Longnor, Shropshire. The lupins will be dry combined, and the seed will be ground and fed in place of 38% soya.

"It all helps to build quality assurance, because we can show where the feed has come from," said Mr Downes. "The ultimate aim may be organic production."

Patrick and Graeme Cock, Younghouse, Ashburton, Devon, milk 300 cows said they couldnt make a living off 5000-litre cows because many of the farms costs were fixed and had to be spread over more litres. They had invested in expanding from 100 to 300 cows while milk prices were high.

"In the medium term cow numbers will not increase because of the drop in milk price, but in the long term we must stay ahead," said Patrick.

Yields have dropped by 700 litres a cow to 7700 litres in the last year since they stopped milking three-times-a-day.

Moving to paddock grazing has been a success this year with high yields from forage in May – at 19-litres a cow – before cows were dried off for calving. Feed costs will be lower this winter with concentrate £50/t cheaper than last year.

"But the drop in quota leasing price has been disappointing – the response to disaster is slow," he said.

Jim Harrison, Pallinghurst Farms, Horsham, West Sussex, has 800 cows averaging 6000-litres. "We have been reducing costs for the last five years – but the drop in milk price has spurred us on."

The farm has had a good forage year and has not had to buy in feeds for winter. And cows should be out again by mid-March onto Italian ryegrass grown as a catch crop between continuous maize.

The farm has invested in a new parlour this year which one person can milk in. Although this investment was difficult to justify, it will allow the herdsmen to look after young stock as well as milkers, and save costs this way, he added.

John Downes…will produce more from home-grown proteins.

Patrick Cock…the drop in quota leasing price has been disappointing.