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Peter Wastenage

29 May 1998

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks

175 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize.

IVE never experienced poaching and drought stress within the same paddock in one month before. Its the result of persistent rain which finally stopped to be replaced by three very hot, dry weeks, causing exposed steeper ground to burn.

Maize has flown out of the ground after finally being planted on Apr 28, about two weeks later than normal. The crop has not gone through the "yellow" stage that we normally see. Im not sure if this is because of the extra phosphate put on with the drill or the very hot weather – probably a combination of both. Anyway, it now seems to have caught up with other years.

Cows are now grazing very high covers of grass over the farm. We have decided only to cut any surplus paddocks as a last resort. With a dry period settling in so early, this will mean we have a decent wedge of grass going into the summer. Even though quality would not be as good as I would normally like to graze it will still be of higher quality than silage and of course far cheaper and easier to use.

Twenty acres of kale and 18 acres of stubble turnips have been planted and have germinated well, our intention being to graze the turnips this summer before reseeding, then continue to use the kale for winter forage.

It was very pleasing to receive our Milk Marque hygiene bonus. It certainly comes at a time when every bonus payment helps. I find it quite staggering how much quota is being leased at high prices with the price of milk at present. There must be some farmers producing milk incredibly cheaply or some people who enjoy working for very little.

Cows numbers hit the 250 mark last month, so we have decided to sell 40 summer calvers. This will reduce our stocking rate to a more realistic level and increase our speed to block calving. &#42

Peter Wastenage hopes grazing high grass covers will give more grass for summer.

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Peter Wastenage

1 May 1998

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks 175

cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

KALE was finally finished at the end of March, with the last 10 acres being block grazed, a sort of set-stocking, due to staff retaliation.

We have just had possibly the worst three weeks of the winter with persistent rain and wind. On wet days cows have been going out to graze for about three hours then returning to the buildings, on dry days they stay out until milking time. Some night paddocks where it has rained heavily while being grazed have been soaked quite badly. It will be interesting to see how they recover. In the autumn I never worry too much about that, but at this time of the year it does concern me a little.

Cows and heifers – a total of 109 – have been AId by black-and-white bulls in three weeks before the beef bulls go into the herd. I am quite pleased with this number of services as we are just changing from an all-year-round calving pattern. It will be interesting to see what the conception rates are like after the recent bad weather. I hope not too bad, as several cows have lost up to six weeks, previously calving in late November and December.

Ground is worked down ready for maize drilling. With luck, by the time this is printed it will be planted. Last year conditions were dry and comments such as "drill deep to reach the moisture" were being heard; if that is the case we will have to broadcast it this year.

Calf rearing has proved a real headache in the past month with scouring. Calves are reared on nurse cows and there are normally few problems with this easy system. But, with calf boxes being occupied all winter, problems have built up regardless of how well we steam clean and disinfect, resulting in the death of two young calves. The 10 cows and 39 calves have now been turned out into a paddock with creep feed and look exceptionally well. Next year as cows calve down heifers will be batched up on nurse cows and turned out at seven to 10 days old, the only trouble being they soon get wild not being handled. &#42

Peter Wastenage hopes to have maize drilled by now, with ground already worked down for sowing.

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Peter Wastenage

3 April 1998

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks 175

cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

GRASS has continued to grow well throughout March. This has allowed maize silage to be cut back to just 2kg DM a cow and a maximum of 3.5kg of concentrate for fresh calvers. Concentrates have now been dropped back to an 18% nut now the majority of the ration is grass.

The last four acres of kale is rapidly being grazed now flower heads are starting to emerge. As soon as the kale is finished the field will be disced and planted with stubble turnips for mid-summer grazing to be followed by grass reseeded in the autumn.

Dry cows seem to be a slight problem at the moment. Paddocks which are due to be ploughed up for maize that are too far away to be grazed by the milking cows are used for the dry cows. They are having more grass than I would like and this has resulted in some large calves recently. Magnesium chloride has been added to the water and a few tubs of molassed magnesium to hopefully prevent any milk fevers.

We are now serving cows and heifers to Holstein Friesian bulls. This will continue for six weeks, providing a single block of about 40 heifer replacements which can be reared in one group. The rest of the herd can then go onto beef bulls.

Heifers have been yarded again and AId and turned out two days after service. This means the maximum time they are housed is 21 days, providing not too many are missed at bulling. When they go out a bull is put with them to catch any returns. In theory conception rates should suffer due to changes in ration and housing, but we have achieved this fairly successfully for the last few years. I feel conception rates are higher than we would achieve by synchronising them.

Quota management seems to have gone fairly well. Im predicting well be about 1% over – a position Im quite happy with.

I had intended to cut concentrates back to 2kg for the fresh calvers but with concentrate prices as low as they are, Im not sure well drop levels any lower than they are at present (3.5kg). &#42

Good grass growth means Peter Wastenage has cut maize silage to only 2kg DM/cow and a maximum of 3.5kg concentrates for fresh calvers.

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Peter Wastenage

6 March 1998

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks 175

cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

DAIRY cows started their grazing rotation in the last week of January. This was preceded by two weeks of warm, dry weather – a real bonus this time of year.

Grass cover was unusually high over the farm, although no fields had particularly large yields, ie over 3000kg/ha. Many fields had a similar cover of about 2500kg/ha and if we had waited until it was longer some would have got away from us.

The milking herd has now settled into the routine of going out in the morning for about 8kg DM grass, then onto the kale and back to the yard for about 6kg DM of maize.

Kale is now down to one field and we expect to finish it by mid-March. The crop still looks very good, but with many more mild days Im worried it will run to head.

The British Grassland Society had a farm walk here on Feb 19. Fortunately, the weather was kind to us for several days before the event and ground conditions were good. All seemed to go fairly well. I must thank Matfold Arable Systems for sponsoring the day, they did an excellent job with the catering.

After discussing mineral and iodine problems at the farm walk and saying that we now have very few calving problems since the annual yield dropped back to around 6000 litres, we promptly had two dead calves in 48 hours. I wont be spending a lot on minerals, just keeping my mouth shut.

Youngstock that have been housed this winter were turned away to grass on Feb 23. Only calves under three-and-a-half months old and bulling heifers will be left at home, the latter will be freeze-branded and vaccinated for leptospirosis before being served from April onwards. No cows are being served at present, giving us a break before the majority of the herd calve next January. This will mean some cows go more than 365 days, but were prepared to do this to condense the calving pattern.

Im now on my third phone call to Dalton to find out where my primary tags have got to. After ordering them in early December, their standard comment of "were delivering within 20 days of ordering, Sir," is beginning to wear a bit thin. &#42

Producers attending the BGS walk at Peter Wastenages saw the cows on kale – but recent mild weather has increased risk of it heading he says.

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Peter Wastenage

6 February 1998

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks 175

cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

THIS year has begun as 1997 finished – its hectic! A group of 70 heifers started calving on Jan 7 and we are already well over half way through of what seems a very good bunch.

Fields shut up for early grazing last autumn have grown on well, due to the mild start to winter. These fields have now received 23 units of urea, and a little phosphate, to accelerate growth in order to allow the predicted turnout date of Feb 1. This will tie in very well with the heifers calving, so lets hope the weather does not go against us now weve got this far into the winter.

Were still battling our way through the kale with an estimated 7ha (18 acres) left to graze. Its certainly reminded us how much feed you can get from a crop in a good growing year. This will be one of our cheapest ever winters for feed, with no concentrate being fed to anything except milking cows, individual rations for replacements and dry cows being made up of barley straw, kale and limited baled silage.

The British Grassland Society is having a farm walk here on Feb 19. Paul Bird (grassland consultant) suggested this date and promptly left for New Zealand before I had time to think that it may be a little early. Anyway all seems set to go ahead, so if you fancy a paddle, come on down and bring your wellies.

Finally, I must draw attention to the Countryside March in London on Mar 1. Country life is being threatened like weve never seen before. Rural issues of both work and pleasure are being increasingly ignored by the urban majority. A united stand by all will be the only way our voices are heard. Please try and support us on the day. &#42

Fields shut up for early grazing last autumn have now received 23 units of urea to accelerate growth before Peter Wastenages cows are turned out.

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Peter Wastenage

12 December 1997

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in partnership with his parents, farms a

121ha (300-acre) farm tenanted from Clinton Devon Estates.

He milks 175 cows, rears his own replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

HEAVY rain has recently made grazing conditions difficult, dictating the decision to house all cattle under five months. The remaining replacements are out but require additional feed in the form of baled grass silage and oat straw.

The milking herd is still receiving 5-6kg DM of grazed grass after morning milking before having a strip of kale. The only exception to this is on days of rain. Then the cows are turned directly into the kale in order to keep grass sward damage to a minimum. They are then returned to the yard to receive 7kg DM of maize before milking. Following this, they have access to 20 acres of Italian ryegrass as a loafing area, which will be ploughed in the spring in preparation for next years kale crop.

To my horror last Thursday I went out to start milking to find the parlour pit flooded under five inches of water. This had been caused by the collecting yard drain becoming blocked and rainwater backing up into the pit.

Having unblocked the drain and shouted abuse at my sister while accusing her of blocking the drain, I thought all my troubles were over. Unfortunately, the electrics in the milk pump had become wet and when in use caused the power to trip.

It first came to mind to try and dry the electrical connections with a couple of hairdryers but to no avail and the fitter had to be called out to put in a temporary replacement. Milking was not finished until 10.30am, luckily we were not due for collection that morning.

Maize silage analysis was returned this week and I am very pleased with the results, with starch levels being higher than previous years at 34.8%. The remainder of the analysis is as follows: Dry matter, 29.9%: D value, 74%: ME, 11.6 MJ/kg: Crude protein, 9.3%.

The cows seem to be milking fairly well with protein level rising to 3.5% with no additional starch in the ration.

Although wet, the weather has been exceptionally mild. The young cattle we housed are being watched carefully for virus pneumonia as one had to be treated last week. Hopefully, keeping them well-bedded with a low stocking rate and good air flow will keep this to a minimum.n

Peter Wastenages maize silage analysis has just come back, and he is pleased to find starch levels at 34.8%, higher than in previous years.

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Peter Wastenage

14 November 1997

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks

175 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

OUR first field of kale was finished on Oct 20, cultivated and planted with grass.

Although that is a month later than I would have liked, the seeds are all up, but we will have to wait and see what the quality of the crop is like in spring.

It is the first week of November at the time of writing, and all the followers remain out at grass. Three- to four-month-old weaned calves are having 1kg of concentrate a head a day, but as soon as grass availability and the weather deteriorate they will be wormed and housed.

The milking herd continues to have plenty of grass available to them, the ration consisting of a small patch of grass after morning milking. This area is relatively small to ensure tight grazing in preparation for the winter. When the paddock is considered not to be grazed sufficiently dry cows are put in to reduce sward height to the desirable level.

After this a strip of kale is fed. The field we are grazing has lodged to quite a high degree resulting in 2-3ft of the stem being rejected. I hope this will not cause problems with spring cultivations.

Before afternoon milking the cows come back to the farm for 7kg DM a head of maize silage and a paddock of grass is being fed after milking.

All concentrate is given within the parlour, with fresh calvers receiving 5kg a day, dropping back to zero when yield falls to below 15 litres a cow in late lactation. During the summer an 18% protein concentrate has been fed but as the inclusion of maize in the diet increases it will be returned to a 30% concentrate.

The main job in the past week has been completing hedge cutting around the farm and replacing electric polywire, which runs around the fields, with 2.5mm solid wire. This has resulted in a stronger electric supply getting to the whole farm, as the polywire was starting to perish in some areas.n

Peter Wastenage is strip grazing his milking cows on spring sown kale, but lodging is causing 2-3ft of the stem to be rejected.

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Peter Wastenage

17 October 1997

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks 175

cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

AFTER one of the busiest periods of the year, life now seems to be returning to normal, or as normal as ever in livestock farming. The 84 acres of maize was harvested by our regular contractor Steve Yeandle on Sept 23 and 24. As ever, a good job was done and the crop realised good yields with a high grain content.

The maize was a lot greener than usual at harvesting with an estimated dry matter of 28%. I consider this favourable, as in my view a drier crop causes greater clamp waste and more importantly the grains are not utilised properly. This is shown by past analysis of high DM silages where the cows have not performed to the expected level.

Once the final pit was sheeted, work commenced to prepare the maize ground for sowing grass seeds. The entire 84 acres was lightly scuffled twice before one application of 0:20:30 at a rate of 50kg/acre, after which 14kg/acre of Italian ryegrass mix was spread before Cambridge rolling twice. It was all hands on deck to get the seeds in before the rain, but two weeks on and we still havent seen a drop, hopefully when it does come it will be fairly light and temperatures will remain mild to give it a good start this autumn. These seeds will hopefully provide the early grass for the grazing rotation in February, with fields further from the farm being used by youngstock to minimise housing costs this winter.

Kale feed rates were increased for the dairy cows, but this was soon returned to the original feed rate after a few cows suffered from bloat. Fortunately, one treatment with drench rectified the problem enabling me to put the trocar and cannula away unused, hopefully it will remain so for a long time.

Last week we were fortunate enough to have Paul Bird and a grassland discussion group around the farm. I find it very refreshing to know there is at least one ally in our industry who is keen to keep costs down. After a trip to the Dairy Event, I consider it unbelievable the sums people spend on complete rubbish.

For some time we have needed a replacement for our old collie dog that had to be put down recently. We eventually took the bull by the horns and went to see a litter at North Molten. After a lengthy discussion among the partners (a family argument) we came away with two. If their herding instinct is anything as strong as their lungs, they should prove to be a good buy!n

Keeping costs down was the focus of a discussion group meeting held at Peter Wastenages, led by New Zealand consultant Paul Bird (left).

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Peter Wastenage

22 August 1997

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in partnership with his parents, farms a 121ha (300-acre) farm tenanted from Clinton Devon Estates. He milks 175 cows, rears his own replacements and grows 40ha (100 acres) of maize

I REGRET once again having to mention the weather, but unfortunately on a high forage system that W word keeps coming up.

August started very dry, with grass growth all but halted. During the past week we have had heavy thunderstorms and hot days, which has resulted in an explosion of grass growth.

At present the cows are being kept on kale and maize silage with limited grazing in order to build up a decent feed supply of grass in front of them. It would be a huge sacrifice to graze this young growth off before a good sward cover is established.

The maize has changed out of all recognition over the past month. It has shot up, turned dark green and has excellent cobs forming. We hope to be harvesting by mid-September.

Eight acres of stubble turnips are now finished and we are going to reseed this with a four- to five-year grazing mixture. For the first time this will include some of the new large leafed white clovers, such as Alice and Aral. It has been an excellent year for clover, but I have noticed more than ever how much cows like grazing high clover swards and, more importantly, how much the milk goes up.

After saying last month that we would be moving away from all-year-round calving, to calve from late autumn to early spring, we decided to buy a beef bull to serve out-of-season breeders. This will allow us to rear all our replacements in one group, hopefully simplifying the system even further.

Hence, we promptly brought a good looking young Limousin bull from the Killerton herd near Exeter. All was well and he settled quickly; the first afternoon he had served his first cow. But by the following morning he had served two of the best yielders, and the novelty of a beef bull was beginning to wear off. Although we have had a couple of Simmentals in the milking herd, Limousin would be too much. &#42

The novelty of a beef bull is beginning to wear off after Peter Wastenages new Limousin bull served two of the best yielders in the herd rather than just the out-of-season breeders as intended.

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Peter Wastenage

7 March 1997

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in partnership with his parents, farms a 300-acre farm tenanted from Clinton Devon Estates. He milks 175 cows, rears his own replacements and grows 100 acres of maize

THE first application of nitrogen is now complete and turnout will follow as soon as this persistent rain stops. Urea was applied at the rate of 40 units/acre on the Italian and earlier ryegrass swards on Jan 20. The remaining permanent pasture was then spread on Feb 10. Since this date rain has been experienced daily to varying degrees.

Last years reseeds are the poorest I have ever known. They did not germinate for three weeks due to the extended drought and then the hard weather over the Christmas and New Year period made them look dreadful. They appear to be fairly well-established now, except for four acres next to a wood which has suffered extensive rabbit damage and will probably have to be ploughed up.

Last month I mentioned maize provided all of our silage. I will now have to contradict myself. Big bales are cut from surplus grass from the grazing area in times of peak grass growth. Although big bales are more expensive to produce, we like them for three reasons: Small areas can be made with less hassle, feeding can take place at varying rates with no deterioration at the pit face and finally we have no spare clamp space.

The cows are continuing to milk well with a Milkminder average of 22.3 litres/day for last month on our all year round calving pattern. The yield from forage was 13 litres with a feed rate of 0.22kg/litre.

We were forecast to only just reach quota, and rather than increase concentrate use we decided to add two big bales of grass silage to the cows ration with the aim of increasing butterfat content and milk price a litre. This has increased our butterfat to 4.36% and is likely to make us 2.7% over quota – a position Im fairly happy with at the moment.

However, Im not sure if using the big bales has made very good financial sense. The protein content for the previous two months was 3.63% and 3.70%, but dropped to 3.43% last month – it all seemed a good idea at the time!

Apart form the routine jobs of feeding and milking, the time has predominantly been taken up with a parlour alteration. Another eight units are being added to the existing 12. This will speed up milking and hopefully get us finished a little earlier at night.n

Peter Wastenages cows are now on big bale grass silage to increase butterfat content and milk price a litre because hes forecast to only just reach quota.

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Peter Wastenage

7 February 1997

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in partnership with his parents, farms a 121ha (300 acre) farm tenanted from Clinton Devon Estates. He milks 175 cows, rears his own replacements and grows 40ha (100 acres) of maize

IN 1966 my parents moved from their native Gloucester to farm Tidwell Barton, Budleigh Salterton. It was originally run as a mixed unit of dairy, beef, sheep and arable until six years ago when I returned from Seale-Hayne. To support another partner within the business it was necessary to look closely at the farm and improve our profitability.

We enrolled the help of John Morgan, a Genus consultant, who isolated the strengths and weaknesses of each enterprise and determined which ones were profitable or not! This led to the end of the beef and arable enterprises. Since this date, the beef sector has gone through the floor and the arable through the roof! However, we concentrated our resources on the two enterprises which appealed to us and were more profitable.

The dairy enterprise expanded from 75 cows and sheep numbers increased from 100 to 250 breeding ewes. This continued famously for the first three years. We bought quota when we could afford it and leased the remainder. But in one year leasing costs rose 6p/litre to nearly 20p/litre. This meant that production costs had to be reduced to a minimum, hence we heavily rely on maize silage and grazed grass. Maize was increased to the current level of 100 acres to provide all our silage requirements.

We tried grass silage on permanent pasture, three to four-year leys and 18-month Italian leys. However, on our light soil with low rainfall these could not be produced as economically as maize. If we had heavier soil or more rainfall then the situation would be very different. We annually review this system with growing cost, but at the moment things will remain the same.

We are in a relatively poor grass growing area and maize silage becomes nearly as cheap to grow as grazed grass, with IACS payments included. We grow grass because of the lower fixed costs needed to utilise it and it complements the maize well.

Turnout normally occurs from mid to late February with grazing extending into December. This sounds fantastic. However, we feed winter ration from mid-June to mid-September due to drought conditions. In the past, we have relied solely on maize silage to fill this gap, but this year we will reintroduce forage crops to aid the balance of the protein/energy ratio of the ration. We are now solely a dairy unit as the breeding ewes and lambs did not suit this extended grazing policy and were sold last year.n

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