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John Round

20 November 1998

John Round

John Round farms 134ha

(330 acres) in the

Gloucestershire Severn Vale.

It is home to his 180-cow

Roundelm herd of Holstein

Friesians and 180 followers.

Cows average 9500 litres on

twice-a-day milking. Maize

and cereals are also grown

AFTER such an unusual summer the maize crop looked surprisingly good, with an estimated yield of over 20t/acre freshweight at over 30% DM.

But, as we are short of forage, we decided to leave less stubble than normal, only about 9in compared with 15in to 18in last year. Although potentially reducing starch percentage in the silage, with plenty of cheap wheat around, this would appear more cost-effective than buying extra bulky feeds.

The Kingshay trial plots were harvested over a weighbridge and all varieties sampled and tested, highlighting some significant differences. The dry matter yield varied from 7t to 8.5t/acre and starch levels from 26% to 36%. More significantly there was a difference of over 20% between the highest and lowest yield of starch an acre between varieties.

It was no surprise, though, that the highest starch yield came from the crop that had the largest mature cob pre-harvest.

Just to confuse us we had grass and maize analysed by two labs, and, as we expected, with the exception of dry matter, everything was different. There was a difference of 8% starch in one maize sample, which represents 2.5kg of starch as fed in the ration. Apart from averaging the two results to get a guide as to what is being fed, I question the use of ration programmes to the nearest grain unless the cows can be taught to read.

Although our rations are run through a computer, fine-tuning is done by assessing the results of what is being fed, ie muck and milk, and cow condition and fertility. The ration is maize silage, grass silage, brewers grains, pressed beet pulp, soda wheat, soya rape, maize meal, molasses, fish, straw, minerals and urea (in descending order of quantities) fed to 27kg of DM.

Cotton was meant to be included but a delivery has been two months late; we are now considering cancelling this as the cows are performing very well with several 3rd and 4th calves over 60kg and the best heifers over 45kg. On the downside butterfat has crept over 3.8%, so we will have to push yields up to bring this back to 3.6% if we can, so saving expensive quota. &#42

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John Round

5 June 1998

John Round

John Round farms 134ha

(330 acres) in the

Gloucestershire Severn Vale.

It is home to his 180-cow

Roundelm herd of Holstein

Friesians and 180 followers.

Cows average 9500 litres on

twice-a-day milking. Maize

and cereals are also grown

At last! The wettest April this century was over and a months work was crammed into a week, or was it 10 days?

The pre-season form-book was thrown out of the window as far as maize variety – early, medium or late maturing – and field choice went. Each variety was drilled at a date most suited to an early.

However the Aelis and Helix was mostly drilled in the last couple of days of April and on May 1. Helix is being grown for the second year after a successful debut last year. It yielded over 17.25t DM/ha at above 30% starch.

Aelis is our test variety this year, heading the new NIAB list. Its being grown within a team of four varieties in order to spread the risk of one having a bad year. At the same time we drilled a trial plot of eight varieties for Kingshay. Heavier land and fields after first cut were drilled with Hussar or Lincoln with the last sown on May 11, coinciding with the Aelis coming up in the row.

Half the first cut was done on May 5, during dull and overcast conditions and even though spread twice, we struggled to wilt the grass much above 25% DM in 24 hours. The forecast was wet but the following day was dry. You can bet if wed left it for another 24 hours the weather men would have been right.

We await the contractor and a couple of sunny days for the last 50 acres, hopefully before the weekend, so leaving time for studying the form of "barleys and hops" – more fun than dairying, but even less profitable!

Judging by the recent press there are many ways of increasing profits – or reducing losses. Only two spring to mind though, increase output, without increasing costs, or reduce costs, without reducing output.

Youve probably guessed we are attempting the former, as I have serious doubts of the latter. Extended grazing would, for us, create a great deal of extra costs if output was to be maintained – requiring tracks, fences, water troughs, gateways as well as cubicles for another 100 lower yielding cows and the fixed costs to go with them.

Perhaps Im being cynical, its always great to see cows at pasture in May sunshine, trampling on their feed.

Although grass is cheap and available for a couple of months on our dry farm, its not the panacea of cow feed, just another ration ingredient. Until quotas disappear and we move several thousands of miles from our market, I wont be buying a rising plate meter. &#42

Dry weather in early May allowed John Round to drill maize and take half his first cut of grass silage.

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