Archive Article: 2002/08/23

23 August 2002

THIRD cut silage and topping are helping Grass Watch farms maintain grass quality as they prepare for the final couple of autumn grazing rounds.

Grass growth has slowed on most farms, but cows continue to milk well. In Shropshire, Stephen Brandon took third cut silage last week. "It was a light crop, but the main reason for cutting was to manage grass quality."

His February calving cows are still yielding 20-21 litres/day with no concentrates. "We sometimes have to begin feeding concentrates in early September to eke out grass supplies, but with a slightly lower stocking rate and plenty of grass, this should prove unnecessary this year."

Wilts-based organic producer Christian Fox has just taken second cut silage. "Taking a second cut is unheard of for me, but we have too much grass and not enough cows as organic cows are difficult to come by."

Stocking rate is currently two cows/ha (0.8 cows/acre). "It may have been an exceptional year for grass growth, but we are thinking of increasing this in future."

A policy working well for Roly Tavernor, who also farms in Shropshire, has been to take frequent silage cuts.

"We have taken four this year. Taking a couple of large cuts means you can find yourself running out of grass for grazing, whereas more frequent cuts enable better matching of supply and demand."

But grass supply continues to be a problem for many units in Northern Ireland, according to James Knox, of Greenmount College, Co Down.

"Wet conditions for much of the season means pastures have become damaged, with farms experiencing severe grass shortages," he says.

"Producers have used up last years silage supplies and are having to buffer feed with more expensive concentrates." &#42

Cumbria 43kg DM/ha

Staffs 45kg DM/ha

Wilts (organic) 40kg DM/ha

Northern Ireland 63kg DM/ha

Pembrokeshire 65kg DM/ha

Shropshire 38kg DM/ha

Berks 55kg DM/ha

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