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Richard Thompson

30 November 2001

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800-acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The

200 dairy cows average

6500 litres on a simple, high

forage system. They are

allocated 40ha (100 acres)

of permanent pasture,

44ha (110 acres) of short

term leys and maize grown

in the arable rotation

MILKING cows stayed out until Nov 5, which is a record for us. The warm, dry autumn has been perfect for extended grazing. Cows are also stale, giving us confidence to make the most of autumn grass.

Now housed, cows are receiving 45kg maize silage and 3kg of a rape/soya blend, with concentrates fed to yield in the parlour and no grass silage. The ration is simple and cows are healthy. It is similar to French feeding systems and – as in France – cows have access to hay in a bunker. It works because cows are in late lactation and receiving low levels of concentrate.

High maize levels have not adversely affected milk quality, which continues to be excellent at 4.3% butterfat and 3.65% protein. This is largely due to all cows being stale, with most cows averaging between 18 and 22 litres/day.

A group of cows dried off early due to them moving from autumn to spring calving. They have been used to graze spare grass. This worked well until Nov 12 when we began to run short of grass and conditions became wet, causing some poaching.

To keep things simple we are feeding dry cows one-third of the milking ration. They receive 15kg maize and 1kg rape/soya blend, plus ad lib straw. We are fortunate in the east in having plenty of straw this winter.

With potatoes harvested and drilling nearly complete, we can turn our attention to planning for spring calving. We have been looking at ways of saving time.

One area is to reduce time spent washing down after milking. We looked at an auto-wash system, but this was too expensive. So we are thinking of changing to a hot acid wash system which is quick. A few people locally have been using it successfully and were kind enough to show us how the system works. &#42

Richard Thompson is considering moving to a hot acid parlour washing system to save time.

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Richard Thompson

2 November 2001

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800-acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The

200 dairy cows average

6500 litres on a simple, high

forage system. They are

allocated 40ha (100 acres)

of permanent pasture,

44ha (110 acres) of short

term leys and maize grown

in the arable rotation

OUR maize harvest was rather a stop-start affair due to the weather.

But once completed, the result was one of the best yields ever for us. I estimate we averaged 45t/ha (18t/acre) over the 40ha (100 acres) of maize with the best crops exceeding 50t/ha (20t/acre).

The reasons for this record crop are largely an excellent growing season, and also to drilling higher seed rates on 45cm (18in) rows. Having our own drill also allowed us to drill our different land types during optimum conditions.

The net result is maize over-spilling silage bunkers and sprawling out across the concrete yard. It is a great comfort having so much maize and we should be safe no matter what the weather throws at us next year.

Chop length of the maize silage was increased this year from 7mm (0.2in) to 17mm (0.6in), adding extra fibre to the high maize diet. But it was noticeably harder to compact in the clamp. Without green maize and an extra tractor rolling we would have had real problems compacting it.

It is always a great relief once the silage is safely gathered in. I have never forgotten one of my first lessons in dairying at college in Newcastle. A Northumberland dairy farmer summed silage making up in true northern style. "You make silage for one week in the year. You cock that up and you are whistling in the wind for the rest of the year."

After a miserable, cold and wet September we have ended up with normal September weather in October. It has been dry, warm and sunny which has been excellent for extended grazing. One of the advantages of a spring-calving herd is the ability to make good use of plentiful late autumn grass. Last year fresh autumn calvers were inside on full winter rations in early October.

The other advantage of a spring-calving herd is stale cows out at grass take up little labour and management time. This allows us to concentrate on important arable jobs, such as drilling wheat and lifting potatoes. &#42

Richard Thompson is relieved and thrilled with this years bumper maize crop, partly due to excellent growing conditions.

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Richard Thompson

5 October 2001

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800-acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The

200 dairy cows average

6500 litres on a simple, high

forage system. They are

allocated 40ha (100 acres)

of permanent pasture,

44ha (110 acres) of short

term leys and maize grown

in the arable rotation

COWS have not milked well during September. Although they are becoming stale, milk yield should have been better.

I think the main culprit has been poor grass quality. Weather has been overcast and wet for most of September, meaning there has been little feed value in grass. Some days I think cows would have been better eating glorified green water.

Usually we have plenty of grass in September, but quality varies enormously, so I am glad we dont have to use it for fresh autumn calvers anymore.

The other problem has been potato feed. As a feed it is excellent, cows love it and milk well on it. The drawback is that it is a factory by-product, over which I have no control. When the factory decides to close down, go slow or change lines, the load of feed ordered doesnt turn up.

As soon as we run out of potato feed, milk drops. We tried to increasing maize levels in rations to compensate, but last years remnants had little effect. We will have to devise a system of stockpiling potato feed to overcome the vagaries of supply.

It always amazes me how much cows butterfat levels change when rations alter. Cows have been on a diet of maize and potato feed this summer and butterfat levels have been about 3.85%. Now maize has run out, they are on a diet of big bale grass silage and butterfats have risen to 4.5%. This is particularly good news in the current quota year.

As I finish writing this article, the maize contractors have turned up and, true to form, it has started raining again. The main difference with this years silage is we are going to increase chop length.

We are aiming for a chop length of about 2cm (0.75in). A longer chop will increase long fibre levels in rations; necessary when we are feeding 80% maize. The only disadvantage is consolidation becomes more difficult as chop length increases, but maize is still green and we will have an extra tractor rolling the clamp. &#42

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Richard Thompson

23 February 2001

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800-acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The

200 dairy cows average

6500 litres on a simple, high

forage system. They are

allocated 40ha (100 acres)

of permanent pasture,

44ha (110 acres) of short

term leys and maize grown

in the arable rotation

WE ARE the proud owners of a feeder wagon. It is quite a culture shock for us as we have now completed the full feeding systems cycle.

Ten years ago we were on self-feed silage, then progressed to easy-feed in bunkers. Next we added a midday protein feed and we are offering a total mixed ration. Being in the eastern counties, we have progressed inexorably down the high yield route.

I have been careful to keep our feeder wagon system simple. We have organised it so that as many feeds as possible are in the same place to reduce loading time. We are also going to feed the same ration to all cows, the theory being that higher yielders will eat more than lower yielders. At the moment it is taking us less than an hour to feed 150 cows.

The main ingredients of our ration are: 40kg maize silage, 10kg grass silage, 4.5kg rolled wheat and 4.5kg rape/soya mix.

Instead of feeding a concentrate pellet in the parlour, we will feed 2kg of sugar beet pulp as an appetiser. Being sugar beet growers we can get beet pulp cheaply on a buy-back contract.

We have just ordered our first load of superflow sugar beet pulp pellets. Unfortunately there wasnt much superflow about them.

They were blown into our storage silo and duly stuck solid in a huge lump. Fortunately, a combination of variation in temperature and thumping the side of the silo has caused the beet pulp to break up. I think the crux of the problem was pellets came straight from the factory and were still warm when blown.

Changing systems midway through winter meant we didnt have the confidence to tie into any feed contracts in autumn. Therefore, we have been caught out in a big way with protein prices.

To try to overcome some of this we have decided to use urea in the ration. Cows will get 100g of feed grade urea. This is a cheap source of protein but is not without risks. We must take care to make sure it is accurately weighed and evenly mixed. &#42

Growing sugar beet means Richard Thompson can buy back beet pulp pellets cheaply. But

they havent been flowing very freely from his storage silo.

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