YEAR-ROUND feeding of a silage-based complete diet to a herd of 250 Holstein Friesian cows has averted drought problems on the Yorkshire dales farm of the Metcalfe family.
Grass use by the dairy cows during the spring and summer months is restricted to just 12ha (30 acres) of exercise paddocks adjoining the steading at Washfold Farm, Leyburn, considerably expanding the area of grass available for silage.
A bulky first-cut, taken in mid-May, gave almost 2000t of silage with a D value of 74, an ME of 11.8 and crude protein at 14%. A second cut was taken at the end of June. This is backed up by 51ha (125 acres) of maize to meet the year-round forage needs of the herd.
Above average quality
Despite a bad start due to frost, maize has done well on the farm this year. Although bulk may be a little down, quality is expected to be above average. And this year the Metcalfes have the added bonus of a clamp of urea-treated whole-crop wheat to balance the farms total forage requirement.
The family business, run by John Metcalfe and his sons, David, Brian and Philip was judged Yorkshires best-managed farm in the annual competition run by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
The introduction of three times-a-day milking 18 months ago has seen average yields rise sharply to 8430 litres. At the same time, herd size has increased from 160 to 250 cows and feed rate has come down from 0.4 to 0.35kg/litre. Current margin over all purchased feed is £1550 a cow.
Cows are fed in four groups in winter and two groups in summer. There is no feeding in the 24/24 rapid exit parlour.
Rationing is based on a 50/50 maize and grass silage forage diet balanced by up to 13kg of straights – soya, wheat, maize flour, molasses, sugar beet pulp and protected fat plus minerals and vitamins. This year up to 6kg of whole-crop wheat silage will be added.
The ration is adjusted on the basis of a blood testing, carried out four times a year which indicates any undersupply or oversupply of energy and protein.
The farm also carries a flock of 900 Mule ewes which run on heather and rough grazing. *