7 April 2000

Attention to detail earns Yorks couple top award

By Mike Stones

YORKS farmers took top honours in the years British Grassland Society National Silage Competition.

Ian Walton and wife Margaret took the winners trophy home to Carkin Moor Farm, East Layton, Richmond, North Yorks. "Delighted," was their response at winning the award, which is sponsored by Kemira Agriculture in association with ADAS and SAC.

According to the judges, Mr Walton "runs a most efficient farm with high production from forage coupled with sound silage clamp management and good stockmanship".

A simple system and rigorous attention to detail is part of the secret behind their success, says Mr Walton. "We feed a low-cost, simple ration based on ad-lib feeding with a minimum of ingredients."

The all-grass 62ha (156-acre) farm carries 116 commercial Holstein cows, 79 followers and 17 ewes. Stocking is equivalent to 2.5 cows a hectare. "One of the most important things is to get the sheet on and tyres on within an hour of finishing cutting," says Mr Walton.

Putting that advice to good use last year, his winning silage achieved 11.2MJ/kg DM, pH4, a crude protein of 128g/kg DM at a dry matter of 28.6%.

"The only additive we use is sunshine," says Mrs Walton, who is also a vet. He adds: "The silage fed very well over winter. We have had more milk from silage than ever before, with yields up to 8300 litres."

About 1200t of silage was made in two cuts starting on May 23. The long-term perennial rye grass received three bags of 15.15.20 in February and up to 32kgN/ha (40 units/acre) in March. All fields for conservation receive three light applications of slurry in winter.

This years competition helped to keep up the Waltons enthusiasm in the face of the falling milk price, says Mrs Walton. "We do not sell milk, we give it away to our buyer. In fact, during our visit to London, we have taken the opportunity to deliver a letter to Tony Blair explaining the difficulties of being a milk producer."

Runners-up were fellow Yorks producers Douglas, Jessie and Claire Lund. Their 85ha (212-acre) Elm Tree Farm produced 1450t of silage made in three cuts using an additive.

The silage analysis indicated a ME of 11.6MJ/kg DM, pH 3.7. Crude protein content was 157g/kg DM at a dry matter of 26.5%.

Other shortlisted finalists were Roger and Lindy Allibone, Greens Norton Park, Blakesley Hill, Greens Norton, Towcester, Northants; William and Rosemary Steele, 32 Rowreagh Rd, Kircubbin, Co Down; Robert, Andrew, Janie and John Buchanan, Pow Farm, Powmill, Kinross; Edward, Joyce and Roger Lywood, Marshalls Farm, Kirdford, Billingshurst, East Sussex; David and Sally Chaloner, Sparrow Bush Farm, Thornicombe, Blanford, Dorset; Dafydd Griffith, Plas Newydd, Llwyndryrys y ffor, Pwllheli, Gwynedd; and Stuart and Richard Yarwood, Lower Medhurst Green Farm, Congleton, Cheshire.

Carkin Moor Farm

Ave number of cows 120

Yield (litres a cow) 7,895

Concs (kg a cow) 1,700

Concs (kg/litre) 0.21

Margin over purchased feed a cow £1,360

N use excluding slurry and FYM (kg/ha) for silage 196

N use excluding slurry and FYM (kg/ha) for grazing 400