21 February 1997

A sideways look at cutting out waste

MANAGING the clamp face to avoid air intrusion is the key to one West Sussex producers no waste policy.

Tony Hextall values his maize too much to waste it through management at feed out. His answer is to drive sideways along the face with a teleporter loader using the bucket to scrape off the silage. Its then picked from the floor with the bucket.

"Every day a bit is taken from the whole face, and because we never drive into the face it stays hard," said Mr Hextall. His policy ensured a flat, smooth face that was cold to touch despite its width. Even at the join with grass silage there was no spoilage.

The top sheet was left hanging over the face so rain ran down it. And only one row of tyres is removed at a time to keep the clamp sealed.

Mr Hextall attributes the short chop length and excellent clamp filling to his contractor. The 47ha (117-acre) crop of Faro and Melody was harvested in about two days, using no salt or additive.

Maize was fed in an outdoor trough using the bucket, grass silage put in with a shear grab. Mr Hextall estimated that maize was 70% of the forage by volume.

"Everything must be simple as there are only two of us," he said. He runs the 220-cow unit with one herdsman, Brian Kelland.

All cows calved from September into winter and were fed 5kg of concentrate in the parlour split between the two milkings. This challenged cows to milk from forage.

"Cake is expensive," said Mr Hextall. "We try to achieve the biggest margin." Margin over all feed and forage variable costs, including establishment, harvesting and feeding out, is 19.8p/litre.

Tony Hextall maintains a tidy clamp face by taking silage out sideways.