14 May 1999

Too much tackle forces rethink

AN over-abundance of machinery, high costs and the ability to grow high yielding arable crops forced Clive Tory to reassess his dairy enterprise in 1992.

"I even considered getting out of dairying, but decided that I wanted to carry on producing milk. After that decision, we were determined to make it work and take the business forward.

"We decided all costs were too high, in particular for machinery. We were the ultimate enthusiasts for machinery, but it was just costing too much." Now, everything is done by contractor. The only machinery owned on the farm is a tractor and mixer wagon, which works eight hours a day.

Deciding to pursue higher yields led to buying more quota, and the farm now holds about 3.75m litres, with a further 200,000 litres bought this spring.

The decision to move to block calving has also helped boost production as management at critical times is easier. But block calving also helped rationing, says Ian Powell. "Grass growth is limited in summer by drought. In some cases, cows just werent getting enough grass at peak demand times. Cows are now tightly stocked on grass, with more supplementary feeding."

Costings show its also cheaper to produce maize silage than grass silage on the farm. A move to greater use of maize fits in with the farm rotation, and maize silage is costed at £45/t DM, while grass silage costs £75/t DM – now theres no third cut grass silage, and second cut is only taken across a limited area, he says.

"All silage is done by contractors so its easy to cost. Third cut is uneconomic, while second cut is still too expensive." &#42