21 November 1997

MAXIMUM GRAZING KEEPS UP PROFITS

IRISH farming partnership David and Tory Baker are securing 16.5p/litre profit before land and quota leasing charges.

David Baker says that maximising intake of grass is the most important priority in his strategy. "We keep profit as our main objective."

The Bakers are leasing farms plus milk quota in Ireland and believe its their focus on low costs and high profits which has enabled them to expand. The newest farm is 186ha (460 acres) at Birr, Co Offaly, and carries 150 cows. This is in addition to 170 cows at a 107ha (264-acre) unit at Cork – where cow performance is 4873 litres off 300kg concentrate and profit, before a leasing charge of 7.32p/litre, is 16.2p, including high exceptional charges for labour and replacement costs.

Grass plays a vital role in both systems. "In setting up our farm for the future we saw having a good network of roads, sufficient water and fencing as a priority," says Mr Baker. This was the infrastructure needed to facilitate extended grazing. He has constructed 1.9 miles (3.2km) of new roadway this year. New 1200-litre (264gal) water troughs and wide bore piping have been placed in the middle of paddocks to improve access to water.

The Bakers aim to graze cows from Feb 15 to Dec 15. Grass measurement is important and a rising plate meter used to measure grass, mainly in spring and autumn, allows them to prepare a feed budget.

Measurements

"We measure sward cover every 10 days during these months to monitor grass intake versus growth. When rotations are speeding up and leaving us short of grass compared with our budget we can then take any steps needed to correct the shortfall."

Mr Baker said advantages of a grass-based system were less slurry to dispose of, less capital expenditure on building – important from a leasing position – less silage needed and cows inside for less time. The farms vet bill has also been lower – due mainly to calving the cows from Feb 1 to Apr 30. "Last year the vet visited the farm three times, and our medical bill only came to £1962 including fertility drugs, synchronisation and vaccination against leptospirosis."n

David and Tory Baker keep profit as their main objective – and that means maximising use of grazed grass in the cows diet is a key priority.