21 November 1997

Later calving to save on silage

PLANS to increase grazed grass and reduce silage feeding that may save £100 a cow in feed costs will involve shifting calving from July and August to begin in September.

Angus Golightly of Zenecas Jealotts Hill Farm, Bracknell, Berks, says that silage use averages 14t a cow, making up 50% of a cows annual diet with just 31% from grazed grass. He believes silage use can be reduced by 4-5t a cow by increasing grazed grass to 58-68% of cow annual intakes.

"Silage costs us three times that of grazing," says Mr Golightly. He puts the cost of grazing at £16/t DM with grass and maize silage at £42/t DM, red clover silage at £55/t DM and ground ear maize costing £84/t DM.

Current premiums for summer calving will not cover labour costs of feeding cows forage outside during summer, when low rainfall usually limits grass growth, explains herd manager Mark Osman.

"Calving in an eight-week block from September would mean cows were dry in August, allowing farm staff to concentrate on the cereal harvest." In spring, cows could be challenged to milk from forage using a rotational grazing system.

Red clover silage is the third forage in cow diets, says Mark Osman.