19 June 1998

Silage stocks allow policy change

By Alan Barker

A GOOD carryover of silage gave Robert Archer the courage to change his spring grazing policy.

With 285 dairy cows on just 121ha (300 acres) of grass, first cut silage had in the past taken precedence over grazing at New Moor Farm, Walworth Gate, Darlington, Co Durham.

Policy had been to set aside 81ha (200 acres) for first-cut silage and to keep the herd in at night until first cut was safely in the clamp.

But Mr Archer was keen to save costs by abandoning a policy of feeding silage in order to make silage. The herd was turned out in mid-March and allocated half the previous silage area for early grazing. It has since produced a silage cut, offering the advantages of alternate cutting and grazing as a bonus.

During May total production from the herd was 10,000 litres more than in May last year, but it was worth £5,000 less due to a fall of 4.5p/litre in milk price.

With concentrate use remaining the same, the saving on purchased feeds amounted to over £1000 during the month, he told members of a Durham grassland discussion group.

Group members agreed that the problem of the moment was poaching after heavy early June rainfall. Carol Gibson, New Zealand grassland consultant working with the British Grassland Society, recommended the creation of multiple entry points to grazing paddocks, ensuring cows did not have to trample through the same gateway time after time. Back fencing to ensure cows did not poach the previous days grazing area was recommended. "In really wet conditions, do not be afraid to limit grazing to three or four hours and then bring the herd back inside," she advised. The cows would eat most of their requirements in that time, and there would be no need to contemplate buffer feeding for what would only be a short term measure, perhaps two days.

When cows went out in the spring, the workload dropped but the thinking load rose. There were, she suggested, three types of farmer – those who made things happen, those who watched things happen, and those who wondered what had happened. There was a lot to be gained in a normal season by proper management of pasture. She believed rotational grazing had the edge over set stocking, particularly at high stocking rates. &#42

Earlier turnout has helped cut costs for the 285-cow herd at New Moor Farm, says Robert Archer.

Do not be afraid to limit grazing to three or four hours in really wet conditions, said Carol Gibson.