21 November 1997

Chalk keeps cows on the right track

TRACKS made from rammed chalk will help one West Sussex producer keep cows out during the day until the end of November.

Oliver Grants 320-cow summer calving herd at Newstead Farm, Carters Lodge, Handcross, was averaging 23 litres a cow in early November from 5kg of concentrate, 10-15kg fresh weight of self-feed maize silage and 25-30kg of grass silage, and grazed grass. Extra silage was offered when weather was poor. Annual yields average 5800 litres from 1.34t of concentrate.

"Tracks were extended two years ago to gain access to more fields for grazing and to stop cows having to go through paddocks to reach other paddocks," explains herd manager Paul Burns. Some fields were also split with electric fencing to create up to 40 paddocks for rotational grazing.

"The tracks were built from local quarry chalk, laid and rammed down with a vibrating roller by a contractor." There are now about 1.5 miles of chalk track which cost £15,000 in total. These are only used by cows and the ATV. Tractors use the drive or drive through grazing paddocks that have gate handles fitted in the electric fencing to avoid damaging the track.

A further £8000 was spent on water troughs and pipes to provide sufficient large 2200 litre (500gal) troughs throughout the paddocks because the farm suffers low mains water pressure.

This autumn cows will stay out between morning and evening milkings until at least three weeks after serving began early this month to avoid unsettling cows, providing the weather is suitable and milk output doesnt suffer. The farm has mainly sandy soils that drain well and poaching is not a concern now that access is good.

All 40 paddocks – each averaging 1.6ha (4 acres) – have been used for autumn grazing. Cows should be out grazing again for 2-4 hours a day in mid-February.n

Access to grazing in November is no problem for Newstead Farms 320 summer calving cows, thanks to one-and-a-half miles of new chalk tracks.