20 November 1998

Christian Fox

Christian Fox has taken

over management of 100

cows and followers, on a

200ha (500 acre) mixed

farm in West Sussex, with 150ha (380 acres) of arable

crops. The plan is to

increase profits and lower

costs by producing more

milk from grazing

Christian Fox has taken

over management of 100

cows and followers, on a

200ha (500 acre) mixed

farm in West Sussex, with 150ha (380 acres) of arable

crops. The plan is to

increase profits and lower

costs by producing more

milk from grazing

WE have managed to keep grazing despite 6in of rain doing its best to push cows into the shed. We had to repair one flooded section of cow-track, but ground conditions in paddocks are fine with barely a mark made once inside the gateway.

I am going to house cows soon. Unfortunately, I did not start here early enough to build up higher grass cover in August and September for extended grazing.

Growth at 20kg/ha a day is below demand at 26kg/ha, so cover is falling and will soon reach closing level.

My feed budget says if we turn-out by mid-February I need a cover of 1750kg DM/ha when we close up, to ensure I wont run out of grass before growth equals demand next spring.

We have now decided to start spring calving. I am going to move the existing pattern in one year, as my research shows that this is successful, provided cows stay in milk. Trying to serve dry cows is a definate no-no.

Changing calving pattern should remove the limiting factors on this unit, such as winter housing and slurry disposal. That, combined with an expensive and awkward winter feeding regime with the clamp away from housing and no prospects for new construction means the best option is to have dry cows over winter.

Winter feeding dry cows will be possible over the whole farm, some of which is inaccessible to the milking parlour. The downland – which is ESA status – is grazable over winter, as are outlying areas of permanent pasture. Winter housing will be used during extreme weather. A lower demand for silage will also allow self-feeding, saving on shear grabbing.

Apart from work on the farm, I recently organised a one day discussion group featuring New Zealand consultant Leonie Foster. Having arranged for her to speak to the West Sussex Grassland Society one evening, I decided to make full use of her presence here.

I invited about 20 local farmers and the Grasshoppers from west Wales – a very active and keen discussion group – ensuring a lively and varied debate. The host farmers are still in therapy.

The Grasshoppers should be renamed the Locusts. They descend upon a grassland area, decimate local pubs of alcohol and sap local farmers of any grassland knowledge they possess. Despite this, I always feel I have benefited from their company. Thats the power of positive people. &#42