26 October 2001

Cereal drillings all done, and milk margins rising

Cereal sowing was

completed in good time at

Conyboro, and dairy margins

are moving up.

Suzie Horne reports

MOST of the drilling at Conyboro was done in 10 days across mid-September, and was all finished by Oct 5.

But the farms blackgrass problem means that the £40/ha (£16/acre) wheat herbicide budget is already spent.

"The wheat went in very well," says manager, Duncan Rawson. "The seed-beds were superb, but we decided on the advice of the agronomist not to go with Stomp as originally planned because it was so early and warm, we were worried it would break down too quickly."

Instead, the wheats have had 3 litres/ha of Prebane and 2 litres/ha of trifluralin, at a combined cost of £14/ha (£5.70/acre). While meadowgrass control was outstanding, some blackgrass was still coming through.

As a result, the sprayer is back out with 20g/ha of Lexus and 2.5 litres/ha of Stomp, costing £28/ha (£11.33/acre). "There is a strong argument for increasing the herbicide budget, bearing in mind the farms blackgrass problem, although it is not resistant," says Mr Rawson.

Heavy rain has prevented spraying across the whole of the oat land, but about a quarter of the 80ha (198 acres) has had an application of Lexus Class.

Oilseed rape looks superb, says Mr Rawson. It has been sprayed to take out volunteers and grass weeds, and low levels of phoma and flea beetle.

Wet conditions on the heavy land are holding back the 113ha (280 acres) of winter ploughing still to be done and arable men Paul Wren and John Bartholomew are busy with maintenance, hedge cutting and building work on youngstock housing.

At the time of the last report from Conyboro, there was still spring rape to cut. It came off at 1.48t/ha (0.6t/acre), and made £150/t. The farms barley is on contract to move in November at £61/t ex-farm, while the peas are going this week at £96/t.

There are about 220t Claire on the farm, 100t of which was sold two weeks ago for £74/t ex-farm for October/November movement.

The maize came off in the third week of September, at 30% dry matter, and while yields were average, at an estimated 34.5t/ha (14t/acre), the analysis is excellent, with starch at 34.7% and 9.9 fermentable ME, says Mr Rawson. But proteins of 9.9% are lower than he would want.

Most of the cows are now in permanently. But, with straw short, it would have helped if they could have been left out for another month. Low yielders graze during the day and all youngstock are still out. What is most frustrating is that the farm has grass to spare, but it is too wet to make use of it. A fourth cut of round bale silage will be taken off the best 7.3ha (18 acres) of Italian ryegrass for youngstock.

Mr Rawson has toyed with the idea of taking keep sheep, but decided against it, fearing that if foot-and-mouth flares up again he could be stuck with them on the farm in the spring.

Milk output is back on track again, with a pleasing increase in rolling yield in August to an average of 7700 litres a cow. In the two-and-a-half years since FW began reporting from Conyboro, yields have risen from 7200 litres, and this latest move is particularly welcome, as the rise appeared to have petered out earlier this year.

Dairy costings for August show the effect of both the better milk price and the increased yield, with margin over purchased feed a cow rising to £1175 against £1026 for August 2000. Margin over purchased feed on a per litre basis was 15.27p compared with 13.65p/litre last year.

Rolling margin will improve further, points out Mr Rawson, as more months at higher milk prices come into the figures. Current milk price at Conyboro is 21.5p/litre, whereas in August this year it was still down at 19.24p/litre. "You never know until you see the figures, but my gut feeling is that they are performing well at the moment."

High yielders are getting 5kg a head of a 36% protein blend, plus 1kg a head of Nutramaize 44, maize and grass silage plus 100g a cow a day of limestone to get calcium back in and to buffer the ration.

The farm has finally got 10 cull cows away through the OTMS scheme, and another 10 were due to go this week, although Mr Rawson was not impressed that they were being taken all the way to Derbyshire to be slaughtered. &#42

Dairy herd rolling margins are heading in the right direction and are set to improve further, says Duncan Rawson.

FARM FACTS

&#8226 Conyboro Farms, in East Sussex, a 405ha (1002 acre) arable and dairy unit, farmed on five-year contract by Sentry Farms.

&#8226 Land is mainly weald clay with a small strip of greensand.

&#8226 Arable crops – all first wheats this season, also winter beans, peas, oats.

&#8226 230-cow dairy, yielding 7696 litres a cow in year to April 2000.

&#8226 Calving mainly June to September. Total dairy forage area of 122ha (302 acres).

&#8226 Five full-time staff, including manager.

&#8226 Arable operations merged with other Sentry farms as Sentry Sussex. Area covers 1133ha (2800 acres).