28 March 1997


The BGS silage competition rewards excellence in silage making and utilisation. FW reports on the winner and finalists

CHESHIRE dairy farmer John Thomasson is the winner of this years British Grassland Society national silage competition, run in association with Kemira, ADAS and the SAC.

Mr Thomasson farms in partnership with his wife Mary at Aston Lower Hall, Worleston, Nantwich. He runs 223ha (550 acres) which comprise 143ha (353 acres) of grassland – medium to long-term perennial ryegrass leys – which carries a dairy herd of 290 cows plus 260 followers, and a 250-ewe flock giving a stocking rate of 2.35 cows/ha (0.95/acre). Maize is grown on 25ha (63 acres) and 154ha (34 acres) are arable.

Using family labour, silage making began on May 8 last year, with about 1450t made from the first cut of 85ha (210 acres) and 850t from the second cut on June 17. A third cut, on July 23, yielded 600t and a fourth cut was taken in September. Seven clamps are used to ensile both grass and maize silage. First-cut material analysed at an ME of 12.4, D-value 78, pH of 3.9 and 21% crude protein.

Grass, wilted for 36 hours before pick up, produced silage at 31.6% dry matter.

Both grass and maize silage are fed through a complete diet feeder.

Margin over purchased feed a cow is £1828 and margin over purchased feed and fertiliser is £4169/ha (£1687/acre).

Average yield is 8339 litres a cow at 4.10% butterfat and 3.32% protein off 2t of concentrate, with over 4000 litres from forage.

Roger Chesher, Kemira Fert-ilisers, one of three national judges, was impressed with Mr Thomassons overall ability. "He proves its possible to achieve a consistently high standard of management with a large dairy herd.

"Two areas which distinguished John from the other finalists were his efficient feeding methods and the collection and handling of slurry. John is fully aware of the nutrient values of slurry and integrates its use well with fertilisers and into his overall grassland management."


RUNNER-UP in the BGS national silage competition is Richard Kirkbride of Horsehouse Farm, Lealholm, Whitby, North York-shire, who has only been farming since 1989.

He runs a tenanted farm on 40ha (100 acres) which carry a 35-cow dairy herd plus 35 followers and 14 store beef animals, giving a stocking rate of 2.2 cows/ha (0.8/acre). Additionally, there are 114 ewes and just over 200 lambs.

Silage making, using a contractor, started on May 28 last year, with about 300t coming from the first cut of 13ha (33 acres) and 138t from the second cut on July 17. Later cuts went into making 35t each of round bales and hay. First-cut material was analysed at an ME of 11.6, D-value of 73, pH of 3.8 and crude protein of 16.6% at a dry matter of 28%.

Silage is self-feed through tombstone barriers with only 1.1t of an 18% protein concentrate supplied in the parlour. Margin over purchased feed a cow is £1476 and margin over purchased feed and fertiliser/ha is £3168 (£1282/acre). Herd yield averages 6500 litres a cow at 4.03% fat and 3.31% protein, of which 4200 litres comes off forage.

"Richard is a brilliant example of how a young person can get into farming and shows what can be done from scratch in only eight years," says Roger Chesher. "Of all the finalists he has the highest milk production from forage reflecting efficient feeding and above average silage quality.

"We were also bowled over by his approach to welfare standards with cow cleanliness and comfort of paramount importance." &#42

1997 BGS national silage winner is Cheshire producer John Thomasson.

Runners-up for 97 are Yorkshire producers Richard and Pauline Kirkbride.


Other finalists were, in the south-east, Ian McCubbine, Landens Farm, Meath Green, Horley, Surrey; south-west, John Martin, Deverell Farm, Milborne St Andrew, Blandford, Dorset; Wales, David Willians, Gwastod, Abermuerig, Lampeter, Ceredigion; West Midlands, John Thomasson, Aston Lower Hall, Worleston, Nantwich, Cheshire; Eastern, Tony Tapper, Kingston Farms, Old Hall Farm, Kneesall, Newark, Nottinghamshire; Northern, Paul Fargher, Ballawanton Farm, Andreas, Isle of Man; Scotland, David MacTaggart, Hallrule, Bonchester Bridge, Hawick, Roxburghshire; Northern Ireland, Alan Coalter, Drumsloe, Ballinamallard, Co Fermanagh.

Competition judges were Roger Chesher, Kemira Fertilisers; Johnny Bax of the SACs Crichton Royal Farm; and last years winner, dairy farmer Will Taylor of Newtownards, Northern Ireland.