11 September 1998

Sound data aids management decisions

AS the first UK livestock farmer to be registered to BS5750 standards, Mr Axons system and procedures are well documented, writes his ADAS consultant Neil Pickard.

Decisions can then be based on facts rather than best guesses.

Winter feed planning is a good example of this. Silage bales are stored in heaps according to field. This allows each field of bales to be analysed separately.

Analysis can vary considerably between fields according to cutting date, pasture quality and dry matter content. This allows better quality silage to be fed to weaned calves, while poorer quality material is offered to suckler cows. Quantity and type of compound supplement offered to suckled calves is also determined from silage analysis.

The same attention is given to determining rate and type of compound fertiliser to apply to grassland. All fields are analysed to determine lime, phosphate and potash status. Those fields that have indices of zero or one receive annual dressings well above maintenance requirements, while those at three and above receive little phosphate and potash.

Winter rations

Suckler cows are fed winter rations according to body condition. Thin cows are penned separately and are offered either quality silage or silage to appetite. Fitter cows are fed on a diet of restricted silage and straw to appetite.

The quantity of silage fed to cows depends on three things: silage dry matter; silage energy content and cow condition. As calving is timed to coincide with spring grass growth and turn-out, cows can be fed cheaply throughout the year. Only a mineral supplement is bought for cows, with no compound feed purchased. By adopting a 16-20 month finishing system for spring-born suckled calves, concentrate inputs can be kept to a minimum. Maximum use is made of home-grown forage during their only winter on the farm, and calves are finished off grass wherever possible.

As quality of grass available deteriorates during late August the remaining finishing cattle are supplemented with up to 3kg a head a day of a high energy supplement to ensure that condition is not lost.

Mr Axon has developed a beef system that suits his available resources of land, labour and buildings, and paying close attention to management obtains the best possible performance from it. &#42

PLAN FEEDING

&#8226 Plan grazing and silage.

&#8226 Grazing flexibility.

&#8226 Quality winter forage.