Clyde Jones manages two
200-cow herds on a
dairy/arable farm near
Dorchester in Dorset. One
herd is spring calving and
the other late autumn
calving. Both are managed
using New Zealand farming
techniques on 140ha
(350 acres) of chalkland.
Clyde won best grass
manager 2000 in the BGS
regional south-west contest
I WORK for J W Finding Farms, where 626ha (1565 acres) of arable, dairy and beef stores are farmed.
Gary Hawker milks the spring-calving herd at Rainbarrow Farm and Duncan Williams milks autumn calvers at Clandon Farm.
There is a busy road dissecting the two farms. We have a 16:16 parlour with no feeders at Rainbarrow and a 10:20 parlour with feeders at Clandon. Silage is self-fed, compound is flat-rate fed and rotational paddock grazing is the order of the day.
Both herds are block calved over 12 weeks using easy calving New Zealand Jerseys, Friesians, Meuse-Rhine-Yssel (MRI) and Aberdeen Angus sweeper bulls.
Some cows are moved between herds to fit calving patterns, but now we have a larger number of replacement heifers, repeat breeders will go.
The spring bunch have ended their breeding period and we finished with two hired bulls sweeping the herd, to good effect because they caught some late calvers that were slow to begin cycling.
Breeding started well with a 95% submission rate in the first three weeks and a non-return rate of 66% in the second three weeks. But conception rate has slid a little since due to body condition. We out-wintered the herd on stubble turnips for the first time last year and they should have scored higher pre-calving. We have drilled an extra 5ha (12.5 acres) of turnips to maintain body condition this winter.
Grass growth has slowed to a standstill at 15kgDM/ha a day with average cover at 2100kg DM. We urgently need to build covers so rotations, currently at 30 days, can be extended to 60 days for the final round. Fortunately, we have a calving paddock for times like these and can feed silage to slow the rotation. Remaining grass is of high quality and should produce plenty of milk in October and November.
I measure grass on both farms every week using a plate-meter. In an effort to reduce the time it takes to do this, I tried using the quad bike. But to succeed with this method, I need to acquire extraordinary polo playing skills. I wonder whether Kingston Maurward, the local agricultural college, are doing polo courses yet? *