David Maughan

21 May 1999

All the latest news on whats in feed

KEEP up to date on animal feed ingredients and issues with Premieratlas 99 from Premier Nutrition.

The free information pack contains the latest analysis data on protein, oil, starch and other nutrients contained in straights. Regular updating of information is vital to achieve the best performance from animal feed, says the firm.

News sheets covering topics including traceability and GM issues are published every six weeks and are also available (01889-572500, fax 01889-577074).

Transponder tracks from birth to shelf

ELECTRONIC traceability from birth to the supermarket shelf is now possible with a new pig identification system from manufacturers Hotraco and UK supplier Sleightholme.

The Daisy disk transponder can be combined with conventional ear tags. Information including serving dates, farrowing dates and movements can be recorded throughout the animals life. Automated feeding is also possible.

A hand-held Daisy reader module is used to capture data which can be transferred to a PC for further processing.

Poultry can also be identified from egg to supermarket using a smaller version of the device.

The reader and software cost £650 with disk transponders costing a few pence (01944-738274, fax 01944-738598).

Mineral drink cuts counts, lifts fertility

CUT cell counts and improve fertility over summer using Soluble Optimins from C & &#42 Nutrition.

Soluble Optimins are chelated soluble trace minerals, administered via drinking water.

Availability of more traditional minerals may be impaired due to interactions with other nutrients, says the company. However, it says that because Soluble Optimins are bonded to organic compounds, they are more readily absorbed.

With summer herds often being fed little or no concentrate, and pastures being low in certain trace minerals, summer supplementation is important, reckons the company.

The minerals are available individually or as a blend of zinc, manganese, copper and selenium, costing 5p a cow a day (01928-793090, fax 01928-716997).

Bridge iodine gap

PREVENT iodine deficiency by giving high iodine All-Trace boluses, says Agrimin.

Iodine deficiency is becoming more widespread in both dairy and beef cattle, says the firm. It can lead to reduced fertility, still birth and poor growth rates.

Two boluses give a daily dose of 14.2mg iodine over 240 days, plenty for all cattle grazing deficient pasture, says the company. The boluses also supply the main trace minerals and vitamins.

Dairy cows should receive boluses at drying off and suckler cows 8-10 weeks before calving. A two bolus dose costs £4.70 a cow (01652-688046, fax 01652-688049).

Udder bug blocker

PROTECT against udder infection in the dry period using a teat sealant from Alfa Laval Agri.

Developed in the US, Dryflex creates a flexible, impermeable seal preventing manure, bacteria and moisture from entering, says the company.

It can be used in conjunction with traditional preventative measures including antibiotic infusions and vaccinations.

Treatment costs £2.50 a cow (01633-833912, fax 01633-838962).

John Helliar

John Helliar has a 162ha

(400-acre) farm on the

Longleat Estate, near

Warminster, Wilts. He milks

230 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize.

1000 store lambs are put

out on winter grass keep

each October

GRASS growth has finally taken off and, other than three nights when the cows came in after we had 2in of rain in four days, this spring has been relatively easy compared with last years nightmare.

After strip grazing the ryegrass, we are now set stocking the main grazing area at three cows an acre. We will revert back to block grazing after taking our first cut silage, when we will separate freshly calved cows to make sure they get the quantity and quality of grazing to allow us to feed low concentrate levels.

We have our usual problem of dry cows being too fat. These tend to be the older cows, while some second and third lactation animals are too thin despite identifying them in mid-lactation and feeding extra concentrates through to lactation end.

Work was always quiet in April until we started undersowing a big acreage of the maize crop. So now we have a labour peak trying to empty the slurry store and spreading FYM after the cows have grazed.

Even with a wet week, we did manage to manure, plough and drill maize by the end of April. Soil temperatures were such that it emerged after nine days.

Incorporating atrazine in the seed-bed was our biggest problem, even though the weather was dry and sunny. The wind blew force seven or eight for three out of the four days we were planting, consequently some fields were left unsprayed. We will spray them with atrazine and bromoxynil once weeds have emerged.

We are fortunate to have a good contractor who is prepared to co-operate with a few drilling experiments. We have planted 110 acres in total; a third was drilled on the French system of two rows at 15in and one at 30in, at a seed rate of 50,000/acre. Another third was drilled on the conventional system at 30in, with a seed rate of 42,500/acre and the last third mixing all three varieties in the same drill, two rows of each.

The varieties we have chosen – Lincoln, Sophy and Goldis – should all be harvested at the same time. We are one of the MGAs 10 trial sites, for which we have grown six varieties in a close row of 15in, and there will be a chance for MGA members to see these sites during the summer. &#42

Mike Allwood

Mike Allwood is owner-

occupier of 82ha (200-

acres) near Nantwich,

Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy

herd block calves during

May and June. Besides

converting to organic

production, he is also

planning to produce

unpasteurised cheese

AFTER five fun years setting up and running Farm Produce Marketing my two partners and I have decided to split up and seek pastures new – please forgive the use of an agricultural pun. Two of us sold our shares to the remaining partner, who will continue to run FPM, concentrating on marketing and not manufacturing. We had built up a super team in the dairy and it was a really difficult job making some of them redundant.

I have decided to try to develop a market for my own organic produce. My wife, Sandy, and I have formed a new business called Ravens Oak Dairy. We have spent the past three months adapting the dairy for cheese production, and are now ready to start making Ravens Oak cheese.

This will be a soft white rind cheese like a Camembert. We have persuaded the Environmental Health officer to let us make it unpasteurised. We will produce our own unique products, aiming at the specialist market – cheese shops and delicatessens – rather than supermarkets.

We have already been practising at the Milk Marque Product Development Centre at Reaseheath, which is just down the road. The cheese we made there tasted really good. I hope we can reproduce the trial results in our own dairy.

Bitter experience has taught me that we will spend the first year learning, so we are not planning to sell much cheese until next summer. Our aim is to process all our own milk in five years time.

Last week we were rushing to get everything done before a Cheshire Grassland Society visit. I am glad that we had this discipline imposed on us because we have managed to make some early big bale silage, sow all the spring peas and prepare the silage pit for first cut, all in glorious weather, before the heavens opened.

Boy, am I knackered. After checking outside the office door I can confirm that we had a quarter of a wellyful of rain. &#42

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280 acres)

of heather moorland near

Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders. Cropping is mainly

grass with 10ha (24 acres) of

spring barley. It is stocked

with 650 breeding ewes and

95 hoggs, 30 Luing cattle

with followers and finishers

HEAVY rain last week has brought to an end the best spell of weather in the past year.

For two weeks we have had long sunny days which made crops and grass grow and helped all stock thrive and look healthy.

Our last April lambing ewes gave birth on Apr 24, which allowed my son, Stuart, and I to go to Murrayfield for an enjoyable day at the Tennents cup finals.

Lamb numbers from the April flock will be up on last year, with certainly fewer losses after turnout. I have gone over last years sheep gross margins with my Signet adviser and our May flock is allowing us to cut costs while maintaining a healthy gross margin an acre.

I am worried that it is becoming harder to maintain margins with the April lambing flock because of increased costs and reduced returns. Therefore, I have decided to stop lambing in April and lamb 100-120 ewes in January, intensively finishing lambs indoors.

The other 200 ewes will be moved into the May lambing flock. This will give us a high gross margin an acre in the early lambing flock and allow us to spread the May lambs over extra acres. This will hopefully allow us to finish more lambs off grass in the autumn.

So that the ewes are fit for tupping in August, I am creep feeding lambs of three and four crop ewes so I can wean them in mid-June. We hope that by having these lambs ready more quickly the price will not have fallen too much.

Calving continues at a steady pace with 18 calves born so far. The bulls are leading the heifers by 10 to eight. We lost a calf during calving at the weekend; luckily I was able to get a calf from a fellow Luing breeder who had a set of twins.

Last weekend we gave the yearling heifers a bolus and turned them out. They are being used as toppers for the sheep fields.

Our spring barley is tillering well, having had a final top dressing of 30 units of nitrogen last week when things were dry enough to let us on the land. &#42

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 172ha (425

acres) in Co Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) of grass supports an

18-month Continental beef

system with purchased bulls

and a silage beef system

using Continental bull and

heifer calves

EARLY May has brought a surge of grass growth, which should not come as a complete surprise.

Grass seems unusually sappy and weak stemmed, which could give us problems with lodging just before first cut silage. We plan to start cutting in mid-May and will be applying a microbial innoculant hoping to lift silage intakes and cattle growth rates. The probability of this cannot be guaranteed, so we have made our innoculant choice based on strong research indicating significant improvements.

Turnout of 18-month cattle proved a rapid affair once weather settled. We have split the 94 animals into three groups and will graze them rotationally.

Grazing shall no doubt prove to be the usual juggling act between conservation and having sufficient grazing of the right quality. But we will have the benefit of last autumns pasture improvement to lift mid-season performance.

Planning to trim calf numbers this season meant reducing our grass acreage. But with numbers being retained we found it necessary to buy a small local acreage of summer grazing to supplement forage.

The influence of possible extensification payments always has a bearing on the rents offered for these grass lets. It will be interesting to see what occurs next year with the planned changes to extensification under Agenda 2000.

The last heifer group has recently been weaned. This has been a cheap and trouble free group to rear, and Lorna can now take a well-earned rest from calf rearing until August.

After several months planning and completing the free range poultry building, the big day is tomorrow with the arrival of 6000 point-of-lay pullets. We hope these fowl will feel unhindered in their egg-laying ability. Some people, including electric-fencing salesmen, believe our local fox population may exert some influence on this.

We temporarily lose our mains electricity supply next week, to be replaced by a generator, together with its spiky current. This means we will close down the borehole for a while and must resist the temptation to use the computer. &#42

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