29 October 1999

Maize silage gets results

The cows are milking well at Conyboro Farms and arable

work has gone smoothly, too. Suzie Horne reports

MILK production is heading in the right direction again and yields should close the year well over the budget of 7400 litres a cow.

Full winter rations, introduced on Sept 24, helped to increase output. But there was an overnight increase once maize silage came into the diet a week later, says Conyboro Farms manager Duncan Rawson.

Rolling results to the end of September show an average yield of 7532 litres, almost 1000 litres up on the previous year.

However, results for September show high concentrate use. This, together with a milk price 2p/litre lower than in September 1998, brought margin over purchased feed for the month down to a worrying 15.72p/litre. A year ago it stood at 18.55p. The rolling result is better, though at 16.38p/litre the margin is still more than 1.5p down on the year to September 1998.

"At 0.33kg/litre this September, concentrate use was the highest its ever been at Conyboro. But this should help cows come into the winter in much better condition than last year so we hope to see a return on this later," says Mr Rawson.

Despite an incredibly wet maize harvest, with three tractors and trailers stuck fast at one point, silage quality is good. The ME result for Soltis, at 12.6MJ/kg, has gone off the scale used by analysts at SCATS Feed.

The other main variety, Aral, scored 11.9MJ/kg. With hindsight, another weeks wait would have meant a much drier harvest, but Mr Rawson was reluctant to let the contractors go and desperate to get maize into the cows diet.

Advice from seed supplier Grainseed of Norfolk to opt for these two varieties has paid off, says Mr Rawson, despite both being compact types and, in theory, lower yielding. But some huge cobs helped push yields to 32-34.5t/ha (13-14t/acre).

All cows are still out during the day. At night, low yielders are kept in while high yielders have access to grass close to the dairy buildings.

Mr Rawson hopes to continue this as long as possible, after a recurrence of last years respiratory problems among housed cows. "Were looking for ways to improve ventilation cheaply and effectively." Options include raising some of the roof panels or making the central vent larger.

After a few more horribly large calves, Mr Rawson has decided he must look for another beef bull, possibly a Simmental or Limousin. However, he is also considering using a high PIN dairy bull.

Black and white bull calves are going into the Dalgety/ABP scheme, but leave Conyboro at four weeks to be reared on another Sentry farm near Guildford. Negotiations are still under way as to how sale value will be agreed.

By the end of last week the new straw shed was still not useable because of problems with the floor. However, new concrete and lights at another set of buildings have made a big difference to ease of working. CCTV has been installed at the same site as a deterrent following break-ins over recent years.

Cropping plans have changed slightly. One 8ha (20 acre) maize field which should have gone into wheat will now carry peas. It has had a lot of muck over recent years, and Mr Rawson was reluctant to risk a flat crop of wheat. The move will also allow repair work to be carried out on a drain before drilling.

Arable work has gone smoothly through October, with all wheat drilled by the 16th. Working was difficult through late September, when over 150mm (6in) of rain fell in two weeks.

"We pushed a couple of fields to keep going, and on the whole its gone in well. We are sprayed up as well as we can be," says Mr Rawson.

"Everything that is up has had an aphicide. Weve used Hallmark – it costs a lot more than the cheaper cypermethrin, but if its warm and relatively early, its a better option."

Wheat following beans has had 1.3l/ha of CMPP to knock the beans out, and most wheat will be sprayed with 1.7l/ha of Hawk plus 2l/ha of IPU. "Its quite an expensive mix but we need good blackgrass cover," says Mr Rawson.

On the 20ha (50 acres) where blackgrass is not such a problem, he will use 4l/ha of IPU and 2l of trifluralin.

Home-saved bean seed has been run over the farms dresser. It tested at 80% germination, and is being sown at 25 seeds/sq m. Mr Rawson is ploughing it down then power harrowing to prevent overly forward growth. &#42

FARM FACTS

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

&#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 7400 litres a cow in year to July 1999.

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

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

Looks good, smells good – and the cows reckon it tastes good, too. Maize silage boosted milk production overnight, says manager Duncan Rawson.