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George Holmes

2 November 2001

FARMERFOCUS

REPORTS FROM THE SHARP END…

The real world of dairy

farming is reflected in the

experiences of our

livestock producer

contributors. Heres the

latest news from our four

busy producers. Their

reports are from Carmarthen,

Co Durham, Leics

and Sussex

George Holmes

George Holmes farms 158ha

(390 acres) in mid-Sussex

having recently taken on an

extra 32ha (80 acres).

He has expanded the dairy

herd to 190 autumn calving

cows and 100 replacements.

His objective is to decrease

costs by increasing use

of grazed grass

MY CONTRACTORS have cut nearly three-quarters of my maize, but the first field in a block of three caused problems when it was too wet to travel on. The contractors got three tractors and trailers stuck on the first trip round the field.

This field is the access to two below and although they are dry enough to cut, we cannot get the crop out. I plan to wait a few weeks to see if a dry spell comes. Failing that we will clamp the crop in the field and move it when we can. The rest of the crop produced a good yield, so I am not too concerned.

We have too many cows still to calve and are nearly 10% behind last year for the same date. On the other hand, cows are milking well and are already yielding more than 27 litres/cow, which is over five litres up on the same time last year.

Milking cows came in at night on Oct 1, but they are still grazing during the day. The rest of the livestock are on grass alone, so we are already saving silage compared with last year.

I have made an effort to streamline calf feeding this year. I have set up a plastic barrel feeder for each calf pen. We leave the barrel in the pen and feed 2.5 litres of fermented milk a calf twice a day, without the need to wash the barrel after each feed. It is working well and we can give 40 calves their milk in less than 10 minutes.

My current worry is how little straw we have in stock. Our own wheat produced less than half the expected straw. I have taken delivery of another 40t, but we will probably need another 100t.

I am, therefore, looking for ways to keep straw use to a minimum this winter. One such measure is putting new Yorkshire boarding on the end of the heifer yard to keep straw dry, but I am not looking forward to clinging to the top of a ladder to do it. &#42

Cows have come in at night, but still are grazing during the day and yields are up, says George Holmes.

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George Holmes

3 November 2000

George Holmes

George Holmes farms with

his brother David, on two

rented units totalling 144ha

(360 acres) in Sussex. They

are stocked with 145

autumn calving dairy cows

and 100 followers. His

objective is to decrease

costs, by increasing use

of grazed grass

WE HAVE finished calving the Friesian calves and have 54 heifer calves, I have sold the last four as I do not want to rear more than 50. We have calved 132 cows so far with the loss of three calves and two cows, which is not too bad.

There has only been one milk fever case so far; a diet of big bale silage with 250g/cow of magnesium chloride in the water seems to have done the trick.

We have had 19 mastitis cases, which may seem bad, but compared with the last three years it is a huge improvement. Milk yield is a little disappointing, at about 22 litres a cow but it will rise as they get going, and out of the 130 cows milking 47 are heifers.

We now have the milking cows inside on a full winter ration. It has been amazing to see the farm change from a desert to a near bog in three weeks. The dry cows, close-up to calving cows and yearling heifers are still out grazing. So far only the close-ups have made a real mess. They have been on an Italian ley so I am not worried, as it will be relatively easy to patch up the damage.

I am more concerned about my maize crop that is deteriorating as it is under attack from fusarium and is starting to lodge. The contractor is only a few working days from getting to me, but everything has come to a grinding halt due to the wet weather.

My experience of selling Friesian bull calves has been disappointing. Of the first batch, one of my calves made the top grade, and was the only Friesian bull out of 250 to do so, but the overall average did not really cover the cost of rearing and I would have been better off shooting them all.

To add insult to injury the calf co-op involved rang to tell me that they would not pick up the second batch I had reared, as the other farmers nearby had dropped out. So I ended up sending some of those to slaughter for no payment to a nearby abattoir. Altogether an expensive lesson, as well as a complete waste as they were beautiful calves that would have been worth £150 each five years ago. &#42

Maize is worrying George Holmes, and hes been disappointed when selling Friesian bull calves – hed have been better off shooting them.

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George Holmes

5 June 1998

George Holmes

George Holmes farms with

his brother David, on two

rented units totalling 144ha

(360 acres) in Sussex. They

are currently stocked with

115 dairy cows, block

calved in the autumn and

100 followers. His objective

is to decrease costs,

particularly by increasing

use of grazed grass

George Holmes farms with

his brother David, on two

rented units totalling 144ha

(360 acres) in Sussex. They

are currently stocked with

115 dairy cows, block

calved in the autumn and

100 followers. His objective

is to decrease costs,

particularly by increasing

use of grazed grass

EXTENDED grazing is great for the bank balance, but feeding spring grass for a month longer means a month extra of green liquid muck being liberally sprayed around the milking parlour.

By the time I was hit in the face for the third time with a dung-sodden tail whilst milking one morning, I made the decision to buy an electric clipper and all my cows are going to suffer the indignity of having their tails completely shaved. I have noticed how much cleaner my neighbours cows are with their tails shaved, but up until now the £200 cost of the clippers had been too much to swallow. Not any more.

We have moved the heifers, due to calve this autumn, back to Withypitts Farm from our other farm, 15 miles away. Over the last two years we have moved the calving start date from June 1 to September 1. As a result these heifers will be two years and three months at calving and it shows.

Despite living only on forage, apart from a little maize gluten during the service period, since their first winter they are big and fat. I was hoping difficult grazing conditions since turnout would have caused a loss of condition, but not a bit of it. We will have to set stock them tightly and feed straw to avoid calving difficulties.

Our maize was planted on May 9 – the latest for some years. We also planted five acres of soya-beans on May 11 as an experiment to replace expensive bought in protein. At least it was expensive when we decided to grow soya-beans. I suspect it will probably be more profitable to grow another cash crop and use the proceeds to buy in protein feed.

The silage pit at Withypitts is ready for the first cut of 70 acres of grass silage at around the end of May. Having just looked around all the silage fields, I would say yields look very promising. Particularly pleasing is the heavy crop on 30 acres which adjoins the estates woodland. Last year it was fenced with a 5ft high stock fence to keep deer out. On some evenings, before the fence was erected, we had up to 80 deer grazing our grass. &#42

An early turnout is good for income, but feeding spring grass is not fun at milking time, says George Holmes.

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