25 July 1997

Move em to protect swards

DAIRY producers can reduce damage to grassland swards by removing cows to loafing areas for part of the day, according to New Zealand consultant John Simmonds.

"If the cows have eaten all the available grass in a paddock after three hours, get them out before they get a chance to damage the pasture," he told a group of farmers at Mains of Thornton, Laurencekirk, during one of only two meetings the New Zealander conducted in Scotland.

But he had to accept a difference between specialist dairy farms he had been visiting in England and Mains of Thornton where dairying competes for land with cereals and oilseeds.

The CWS unit is managed by Andrew Moir who houses his cows at night and buffer feeds all the year round. "The bottom line for the whole farm matters here. I cannot afford to give the 100 cows and followers more than 115 acres for grazing and silage out of the 630-acre total," said Mr Moir.

Mr Simmonds scorned the level of grass on one of the fields at Thornton, and insisted more productivity could come from grass. But he accepted that buffer feeding of silage and concentrates would be needed to maintain the Thornton average of 9000 litres, as Mr Moir explained.

"I know we could grow lush fields of grass but the climate up here gives us only a month or so of really good grass growth each year. However, we are quite good at growing wheat and I am quite relaxed about buying extra hectares for the cows with concentrates. I also know that the buffer feeding will maintain my yields," he said.

"This is a dairy and arable farm and I am certain that overall profitability would suffer if we cut the cereal acreage to give cows more grazing land. If the cows were not in at night I would have to give up 30-40 acres of wheat and that would not be sensible.

GRAZING TIPS

&#8226 Overall profitability.

&#8226 More production off grass.

&#8226 Buffer feeding important.