20 October 1995

Early spring turn-out uses all

the grass

ARTHUR Williams, Hobbacott Farm, Marhamchurch, North Cornwall, runs 80 to 85 year-round calving cows on 90 effective hectares (90 acres). He has 530,00 litres of quota and usually produces 2% to 4% over that. Average yield is 6700 litres off 1.37t a cow of 18% protein cake.

Mr and Mrs Williams moved to Cornwall from Northern Ireland because of the milder winters and better potential for cheap production from grass.

Some 10ha (25 acres) of the farm is on shillet and so very dry. The rest is heavy clay which grows a lot of grass but is considered unsuitable for grazing once it gets wet in the winter. On some parts of the farm grass grows most of the winter.

Soon after they came to Hobbacott Farm the Williams had a hard track made to allow cows to be walked along the edge of the wet block which separated the dry land from the farm. That track has been the key to making best use of that dry land in the late autumn when the rest of the farm is wet.

Mr Williams aims to graze as soon as possible in the spring, typically turning out on about Mar 7. The cows graze 1-acre (0.4ha) paddocks by day and any daily adjustment to the quantity of grass available to them is made when they are strip-grazed overnight. Surplus grass is made into silage, the first cut being about May 15 and the second cut six weeks later. The "third cut" is grazed. In the autumn the wetter ground is grazed first, leaving the dry ground until last.

For the past two years 4ha (9 acres) of maize has been grown, but even though this years crop has been followed by an excellent take of Italian ryegrass to provide early grazing next spring, Mr Williams feels it adds hassle to the winter workload. The layout of his buildings and silage clamps means feeding the maize silage is an extra chore, so he may not grow maize again.

He started the discussion with an open mind and by the end had concluded he would be looking even harder at how and where he could use more grass by grazing. But he refused to accept Miss Fosters argument that high-yielding cows do not necessarily add to total farm profit. Iif nothing else, they gave him job-satisfaction.

"I do the milking myself and I just do not want to milk poor cows."

Arthur Williams will try to use more grass by grazing but questions Miss Fosters argument that high-yielding cows do not necassarily add to total profit.