Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998


John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah Speckled Face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

AT the end of last month we marketed stock in two different ways. One was in the local cattle market where trade was good with heifers up £50/head to average just under £1/kg, and the other was in the local army barracks which is the Army Headquarters of Wales. This was part of the MOD meat working group initiative which is promoting innovative uses of forequarter British beef and lamb.

Silage was cut ten days later than the optimum. However with the predicted price of wheat and barley this year, it will probably be as well to take larger crops of silage and include more cereals in the finishing ration.

I must get a good system sorted for rolling and feeding grain with the present price difference between cereals, straights and cake. With the single bull premium, barley beef looks more attractive and with the likelihood of the CPAS coming to an end its a sector thats going to expand, but lets hope its not at the expense of the already battered suckler sector.

Lambs are coming on, but not as well as last year, as aftermaths have been slower to rejuvenate. Trade is starting to drop which surely means well have some nearly ready to market.

With this in mind I sent my cheque to the Farmers Ferry. Lets hope all sheep producers support it. Another marketing option locally is the mobile slaughterhouse, which is small in scale and aimed at a high value niche market. Mistakes have been made in the past, but its ready to roll, so lets use it and create local employment.

Ive now handed over the chairmanship of Wales Young Farmers Club. The last few years have been eventful, but its easy to be captain of a good team throughout Wales.

A job I accepted six months ago, was to get one union for Wales. Its something that can only succeed if the respective memberships want it. I strongly believe it is vital for the future survival of family farms in Wales and the UK. &#42

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50

beef cross stores and 70 beef

cross calves. Winter wheat,

barley, oats and beans are

also grown, and sold on the

organic market.

SECOND cut silage is now finished after some frustration with the rain. This was mainly caused by the fact that we had to turn the swath, and in the process lost two turner tines. The forager found one – bang! – and a member of staff found the other.

The red clover has been dominant in the second cut silage. It needed time to wilt, as it analysed at 16% DM. But the protein level was good at 20%. Estimating the heap of silage already clamped, it looks as though there will be about 2400 tonnes.

If our calculations are correct, we have cut an average of 7t/acre at each cut, over first and second cuts. I would expect about 6t/acre for third cut, again being a high quality red clover dominant sward.

I have recently decided to use a consultant to help improve any parts of the livestock enterprises that may need brushing up. We need to maximise grass and silage use, and reduce concentrates if possible.

The wet summer has been great news for the clover, the fields are white with clover flowers. Bloat caught us out when we lost a cow on a wet day in early July. As a preventative measure, all milking cows are offered 7kg of silage after morning milking, and 10kg of silage after evening milking before they go back out to grass.

All 63 of the in-calf heifers have been freeze branded. We always keep a large group of heifers with the aim of selling about 20 as down calvers to other organic dairy farmers. It is a policy that has continued for many years, and I plan to rear more heifers as the demand for organically reared livestock and milk is still rising.

Hay making is painfully slow this year, it should have all been finished by now, but there is still about 50 acres left to cut, mostly SSSI land that is usually quite late maturing, so its not really hurting. The barley is ready, so all we need now is a few fine days.

The mechanical roguer has been busy this last month, going through all the organic wheat crops, cutting off the heads of the wild oats. It certainly makes harvesting a lot easier, and reduces the weed burden for the subsequent years. &#42

Christian Fox

Christian Fox milks 270

autumn calving cows plus

followers and manages

146ha (360 acres) at

Crouchlands Farm near

Billingshurst in West

Sussex. The system is

geared to profit and lower

production costs, so grazed

grass and grass silage are

the main feeds. Average

yield is 5600 litres.

JULY is a time for drying-off and foot trimming at Crouchlands. Cows due to calve during the first week of September are dried off on one day during the first week of July. Those to calve during the second week follow, and so on.

On July 31 all remaining cows, including those due in October and the few November calvers are dried off. The whole herd is dry for August and this is a time for parlour and building chores and holidays. This year sees both happening in bigger ways than usual, as the parlour is being re-vamped and I am getting married and going on honeymoon.

I have been told that my honeymoon is definitely not a time to visit farms. However, I am allowed to go and see one dairy farm I have been in touch with via E-mail, near Seattle, Washington, USA.

Second cut was nearly as late as first cut, but is now underway. We have only used about 100 acres as the core of our grazing this year, incredible when you think this has fed 270 cows all of their requirements since May.

The rotation length has been 12 days for the last six weeks. Although grass growth has dropped slightly of late, we are drying off cows so herd intake has also dropped.

Milking cows have been getting 12 hour paddocks for several rounds now. They are doing a better job than when offered 24-hour blocks, and seem happier as they have a fresh area to graze at each feed. I have also tightened up the area offered, putting a slight edge on their appetite. Residual covers are now about 1650kg DM/ha – which is good for this time of year, when swards tend to be slightly coarser at the base.

This is my last month of writing from Crouchlands Farm. Next month I am taking up a new position running a 100-cow unit in West Sussex, suited to a grazing based system. I am also working as a consultant with both New Zealander Paul Bird and independent consultant Kay Carslaw. &#42

John Geldard

John Geldard and family farm

175ha (430 acres) near

Kendal in the Lake District.

Stock now comprises of 100

suckler cows with progeny

finished alongside 200+

bought in stores, 1000 ewes

– 160 pedigree Charollais

plus Llyens – and ewe lamb

replacements, with a 25,000

bird poultry enterprise.

Last month I mentioned that we had made silage, but had still got 20 acres of hay to make. Well, we still have 20 acres to make and our second cut silage is nearly ready.

In the last month we have been busy showing sheep at shows, many of which have also suffered with the weather. But the weather did not deter the Farmers Ferry organisers who spent all week canvassing at the Royal Welsh Show.

We have all heard quite a lot about the Farmers Ferry recently and I admire those farmers who have devoted their time in an attempt to do something for the industry.

I personally believe that its in the interest of every British sheep producer to put his hand in his pocket and support this venture.

Many of us have concerns, but we must be positive rather than negative. Let us not forget that our British standards for animal welfare and transit regulations are of the highest in the world. We are trading within a single European Union community and we must make sure that our industry has equal opportunity within it.

The changeable weather has certainly put the stock under stress in the last few weeks. We lost a three-month-old calf with pneumonia and had a cow with staggers which fortunately recovered. Vets say these sort of problems have been much more common this year.

We have weaned all the lambs and sorted out surplus ewe lambs to sell as the entries for the Lleyn sales are now closed with the number entered up by 25%. However with the interest in the breed, the extra numbers forward will easily be absorbed.

All the ewe lambs have been vaccinated with Heptavac P and the wether lambs with Ovivac P, hoping that prevention is better than cure.

Also on the sheep front, all the Charollais ewes have been AId to lamb in December. In the next few weeks we also have the start of the ram sales with the Charollais. Trade similar to last year would be quite acceptable, whether this is maintained remains to be seen. &#42

Recent changeable weather has lead to pneumonia and staggers in cattle, says John Geldard.

Christian Fox has spent July drying-off the autumn calving herd at Crouchlands Farm, before he ventures off to some pastures new.

Trade for heifers in the local cattle market has been better recently, with prices up £50 a head to average just under £1/kg, says John Davies.

Red clover is dominant in this years second cut, says Miles Saunders.

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