18 February 2000

Marginal, but works

GROWING maize at 135m (450ft) may make it a marginal crop, but it is one that is helping the Barretts achieve their objectives.

The 142ha (350-acre) Cornish farm rented by Patrick and Claire Barrett is their third tenancy, having started milking with fewer than 10 cows at the first smallholding. They currently milk 260 cows with lactation yields of 9100 litres and sell 8900 litres a cow, at Tresallak Farm, near Callington, which they have farmed for 10 years.

They have achieved their first two objectives – milking 200 cows and a yield average of 9000 litres.

Producing as much as possible from each cow is essential for profitability, said Mr Barrett.

"Two-thirds of our costs are overheads. If we reduced yields overheads would stay the same as we cant reduce labour or stop paying rent." The couple employ just one full-time man to assist them.

The farm, ranging from 120 to 180m (400-600ft)above sea level is not suited to an early turnout with the number of cows kept. But growing maize on lower fields can produce good yields of up to 15t DM/ha (6t/ha), he said.

Keeping extra cows meant a reduced maize acreage last year of 30ha (74 acres) instead of the 40ha (100 acres) usually grown. But extra maize was bought in to allow winter rations of 60% maize and 40% grass, and to ensure supplies for buffer feeding in summer.

Mixed rations also include caustic wheat, rolled barley, caustic treated straw, soya, rapemeal and fish. Sugar beet pulp, fed at 1kg/cow a milking, is used to entice cows into a difficult parlour.

Despite their success, the Barretts are keen to set new objectives; they now want to buy a small arable farm to grow cereals and maize for cows. But they will only do so when land prices fall to an economic level. &#42

Judges

Gordon Newman – MGA, Keith Blenkiron – farmer and Jessica Buss – farmers weekly. Regional finals were judged by HSBC Agriculture managers.