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.
I OUGHT to kick off my first piece with a brief introduction. Crouchlands Farm is a 260-acre all grass dairy unit, farmed in partnership by the owner, William Luttman-Johnson and my employer Gwyn Jones.
The farm is heavy (Weald clay) and tends to be concrete in the summer, as for the winter… well, lets just say that Noah had it easy.
We run 270 cows plus followers, we also rear replacements for another farm in the partnership. I hold the contract for looking after and milking the cows and managing the grazing on a day-to-day basis.
Grazed grass is the only feed from April until November. We feed 1t a cow of maize gluten to supplement grass silage in winter. The average yield is 5600 litres a cow, but as our system is geared to profit and lower production costs, yield is largely unimportant. The cows are block autumn calved (86% in six weeks) and our total feed costs (including silage and feeding-out costs) are 6.5p/litre.
We are believers in and members of, Milk Marque.
The grass has stopped growing at last. During December I was quite worried that some of the paddocks shut since late October would be overcooked before turnout. But by the beginning of this month the growth rate was down to 5kg DM/ha, and has now virtually stopped.
Farm cover is still higher than I had anticipated at 1900kg DM/ha. The quality varies across the farm; those paddocks that were grazed tightly during the last rotation are looking good, those that have not been grazed since late October, or were under-stocked are looking a little off colour. My aim is to have 2000 kg DM/ha by mid March, when we might be able to turn-out, ground conditions permitting. This would allow one-and-a-half rotations before growth takes off.
Despite the recent cold snap, the cows and I increasingly cast longing glances at the track leading to the main grazing block. I dont have the heart to tell them that colleagues in Pembrokeshire and Cornwall hope to have turned out by the time I next put pen to paper. Sorry girls, another couple of months yet! *
Use of grazed grass helps Christian Fox keep total feed costs to 6.5p/litre.