27 July 2001

Grazing grass shortage weighs heavy on mind

The latest silage cut yielded

a bumper crop, but Conyboro

stock is now short of grazing

grass despite a good deal of

rain over the past two

weeks. Suzie Horne reports

SECOND cut silage was taken on July 11, giving 600t off 29ha (72 acres) after a very dry time. Third cut land and all the grazing ground has had 25kg/ha (60 units/acre) of nitrogen.

But with grass now running short, high yielders are being buffer-fed 6kg of maize fibre – a distillers by-product – and 25kg of maize silage as well as 2.5kg/head of a forage replacer blend plus 0.2kg of soya.

Manager Duncan Rawson could have chosen to feed some grass silage instead, but is keen to hold on to it. "I would rather buy in the feed now because I think it will cost more in the winter."

Low yielders are on straight maize silage at around 15kg/head/day.

A single blended feed has also been booked right through the winter. This will make for easier handling than straights and the price makes sense, says Mr Rawson. Since he locked in to this supply, the price has already risen by £18/t, which would have added another £4000 to the Conyboro herds feed bill.

All the herds quota requirement for this year is now covered, with 300,000 litres leased in at an average of 1.2p/litre.

He is looking for another 15-20 good cows, preferably between 8000 and 9000 litres, to calve down late spring or early summer to ensure that quota is filled. These will replace the 15 cows that were loaned to Conyboro from the Ryde Estate in Surrey, which are due to return home in the next couple of weeks to their new dairy complex.

Next years calves will mainly be by Riglio Juror Capri, Etazon Lord Lily and Mtoto, with selection agreed between Lord Monkbretton and Mr Rawson. A recent run of bull calves has not helped the herds youngstock situation.

The dairys new bulk tank was due to go in on Wednesday this week. Rather than the original plan of moving the old tank outside for a few days while the new one was installed, Mr Rawson decided that the changeover should be completed in one day because he feared that the original and some of its components might be too fragile to withstand being re-sited.

"In hindsight, we should have swapped the tank three years ago. Weve spent £9000 on repairs to the old one in that time and the new one is costing £19,000, including the works to install it. It will be a tight fit for the new tank, especially on height."

Two muckspreaders have recently done two weeks work at Conyboro, getting muck onto land that has not had it for years and where oats will follow set-aside.

The Challenger and discs are working down this land and will remain at Conyboro to tackle barley stubbles before moving onto rape and wheat stubbles at West Grinstead, another of the Sentry sites in Surrey and Sussex across which arable operations have been merged. This should allow time for straw to be baled and moved off Conyboro wheat land so that the kit can return.

Cropping plans for this autumn include aiming to simplify and minimise the number of arable crops on each of the six blocks of land in Sentry Sussex, as the merged operation is known. This has reduced from seven blocks as one farm business tenancy covering 93ha (230 acres) is not being renewed this autumn by Sentry.

Conyboro crops will be split between wheat, oats and possibly rape. While this runs to three crops, the relatively small acreage of rape planned would help open up some land for early autumn cultivations. However, Mr Rawson is keeping an open mind on this and may put the land down to oats.

The combine went into Pearl barley at Conyboro earlier this week. Although it was too early to pin down yields, the crop seemed disappointing and the combine got through the crop a lot quicker than expected. He is also anxious about whether wheat sold for the first week of August from the Lock Estate at West Grinstead will be off the field in time.

Another staffing change has seen John Bartholomew move from his tied cottage on the farm to his own house in Lewes in anticipation of his retirement in 18 months time.

Stephan Franfield has joined the Sentry Sussex team as stockman, relief milker and tractor driver. He has moved into Mr Bartholomews former cottage and will partly replace another staff member who left last month from one of the other units. &#42

as well as covering some of the work done by Mr Bartholomew when he reduces his hours.

FARM FACTS

&#8226 Conyboro Farms, in East Sussex, a 405ha (1002 acre) arable and dairy unit, farmed on five-year contract by Sentry Farms.

&#8226 Land is mainly weald clay with a small strip of greensand.

&#8226 Arable crops -all first wheats this season, also winter beans, peas, oats.

&#8226 230-cow dairy, yielding 7696 litres a cow in year to April 2000.

&#8226 Calving mainly June to September. Total dairy forage area of 122ha (302 acres).

&#8226 Five full-time staff, including manager.

&#8226 Arable operations merged with other Sentry farms in area covering 1133ha (2800 acres).