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