Archive Article: 2000/02/18

18 February 2000

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800-acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The

200 dairy cows average

6500 litres on a simple, high

forage system. They are

allocated 40ha (100 acres)

of permanent pasture,

44ha (110 acres) of short

term leys and maize grown

in the arable rotation

AS SPRING approaches it comes round to the time of year when I have to choose maize varieties. Its an awful job, and this year will be no exception with the list of varieties getting even bigger.

Maize silage is the most important energy feed on our farm, yet despite there being a huge amount of data on yield and dry matter percentage, there is virtually no information on differences in energy between varieties. The net result is I make a stab at choosing and use four or five varieties to cover my options.

Calving is now well under way in the spring herd. Generally, it has gone pretty well except for the usual problem that your best cows always have bull calves: The advent of sexed semen will make a huge difference to genetic gain.

Fresh calvers are now milking extremely well. The success of our winter feeding this year is largely down to exceptional maize silage. The problem is I am unsure what we did differently this year to make such good silage, and more importantly, how to repeat this next year.

However, using an urea based live additive has raised protein levels to 11.5%, which is helping increase milk from forage.

Nevertheless, proceedings were interrupted for a very important spring calver. My wife, Jane gave birth to our first child, a little baby girl. Both are well – and importantly mother is milking well. Having been through this experience, I will now look upon calving cows with much more sympathy.

One factor that has helped our margins this winter is the abundance of cheap feeds in East Anglia. Currently, we are spoilt for choice between C quota sugar beet, potatoes and parsnips.

Cows have been milking well on potatoes, so we have decided to continue with them for the rest of the winter. Hopefully, if prices remain low we will be able to use some of these feeds during the summer. &#42

Richard Thompson wants to know why his best cows always seem to have bull calves. Despite that calving is going well and cows are milking well.

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