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
THE autumn calving herd were turned out full-time at Easter. This was later than originally planned due to cold north winds and wet weather in April.
Now that they are out full-time, they are being fed no concentrate and will be used to maximise milk from grass.
In this situation, we get greater efficiency from high yielders, as they still give over 25 litres, most of which is from grazed grass.
We are trying a new theory with the spring herd. Traditionally cows would start grazing for three hours a day, then over a 2-3 week period we would increase grazing time until there is enough grass for cows to be out full-time. But in the past conception rates have always dipped for a month around turn out.
This year, to try and improve this, we will buffer feed 10kg/head of maize silage, despite there being plenty of grass, once the cows are turned out. This would have the grazing fraternity pulling their hair out.
But our theory is that spring grass provides variable energy intake depending on whether it is dry and sunny, or cloudy and wet. This inconsistency is not good for getting a 40-litre cow back in-calf. So maize silage acts as a high dry matter and high energy buffer for bad grazing days.
As a result of this we will make more grass silage than we would have done previously, but it will be worth it if we manage to improve fertility.
They say all good things come to an end. Our docile vasectomised Holstein bull has now started to turn nasty. Bulls seem to have an annoying habit of doing this as they get older. Because of this, I think he has only a couple of weeks to go before he is relieved of his duties. I dont think we will replace him and will rely on tail paint instead.
We had hoped to drill some maize on our lighter land early this year, but a cold wet April has put an end to this. Maize drilling wont now get under way until May, and with some tricky wet fields I am glad we have the flexibility given by drilling it ourselves. *
Buffer feeding the spring herd using maize silage at grass is part of Richard Thompsons theory to improve high yielders conception rates.