Tim and Louise Downes - Farmers Weekly

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Tim and Louise Downes

21 June 2002

Tim and Louise Downes

Tim and Louise Downes

farm 230ha (570 acres)

with Tims parents in

Shrops, of which 139ha

(343 acres) is under

contract. The farm is fully

organic, comprising 140

dairy cows plus followers.

Aberdeen Angus beef cattle

are finished and part of the

cereal harvest of wheat,

oats and triticale is

crimped. They also have a

dozen breeding ewes

SILAGING began in earnest to catch the few dry days we call summer. Particularly important was the field we had agreed to lend as a car park for a local wedding.

Unfortunately, the weather that week was uncooperative, but at least both self-feed pits are now full and both contain a layer of red clover and white clover. We sheeted up late one night in strong winds, when the water filled barrels brought the Downes hang gliding display team to an exhausted finale.

The team included three locals with tractors and trailers and all enjoyed sharing the half-mile trip down the A49 trunk road with Jubilee traffic.

We are into recycling at the farm with old AMBIC milk clusters as electric fence handles and stockpiles of metal and wood. Finally, we have found a use for large DEFRA envelopes – reminders to dad and for planning farmers weekly articles.

Another Jubilee weekend accomplishment was shearing our 12 ewes and three tups. After being shorn last year by amateur, Tim, who felt he did a quality but steady job, the sheep were relieved to be shorn by a professional.

We have had the groovers in this month with cows and staff now much steadier on their hooves/feet along the exit race. All we need now is stronger concrete in the patches that were too much like crazy paving to groove.

Unannounced visits from wellington boot disinfecting officials began with a recent visit by the dairy hygiene inspectorate. It was the first inspection of the two year old parlour. The inspector was very thorough and still had enough ink left in her pen to sign us off with a good grade.

Under the spotlight in discussion groups is fertility. Being sports fanatics, watching the World Cup could have a detrimental effect on observing cows, particularly as heat detection is made difficult by the only signs of an on-heat cow sometimes being fluttering of eyelashes. &#42

Enthusiastic following of the World Cup could interfere with heat detection in cows, fears Tim Downes.

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Tim and Louise Downes

24 May 2002

Tim and Louise Downes

Tim and Louise Downes

farm 230ha (570 acres)

with Tims parents in

Shrops, of which 139ha

(343 acres) is under

contract. The farm is fully

organic comprising 140

dairy cows plus followers.

Aberdeen Angus beef cattle

are finished and part of the

cereal harvest of wheat,

oats and triticale is

crimped. They also have a

dozen breeding ewes

THERE is something slightly worrying about beginning to type my first article. Thinking back, I can remember an occasional rush for the deadline by dad. As he says, the best work is done with a certain degree of pressure.

We run an organic dairy herd after having the confidence to convert land in 1998. We had been encouraged on many occasions to convert after operating MMB clover trials in the mid-1980s gave incentive to fully use clover.

The emphasis is on using home grown resources and oats, wheat and triticale are all growing well. Other crops grown are spring beans for a protein boost in the dairy ration and red clover/hybrid ryegrass for silage production.

Historically, the dairy herd has been calved to maintain a level profile of supply, however, we are currently moving towards spring calving. Two years ago we started a paddock grazing routine and it has given us more control over feed allocation during a long grazing season.

We have put in an extensive infrastructure of cow tracks, but can see more being required. My wife, Louise and I spent six months in New Zealand where grazing seems to be inbred. She is also an enthusiast and helps run the local Stargrazers discussion group, a really keen bunch.

Turnout this year was Mar 25 when conditions dried underfoot. We didnt manage to beat our earliest turnout date of Mar 11, due to soft pastures.

There are two full time staff at the farm. Herdsman Dave Taylor and Rob Maddox, tractor driver and mechanic. Over winter we had hedgelayers at Park Farm five miles away from home and two men have done a tidy job on 600m (654yds) of old straggly hedge.

This means we have improved about a quarter of the hedges on the 90ha (220-acre) contract farm. We are considering Countryside Stewardship for 88ha (220 acres) at Park Farm as it fits our philosophy, but are awaiting the introduction of an Organic Stewardship.

This years lambs are growing well and are grazing with the Anguses closest to finishing.

By the time this is in print, we hope to have ensiled the red clover and mixed it with white in two self-feed pits, with neighbourly teamwork. &#42

Tim and Louise Downes continue the story of happenings on their Shrops organic dairy unit, begun some years ago by Tims father John.

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