David Maughan

18 June 1999


Double blocking

IMPROVE forage use by offering two new feed blocks, says manufacturer Rumenco.

Eco Breeder Cattle is a 20% protein block with enhanced levels of minerals and trace elements, especially magnesium, making it particularly suitable for spring and autumn grazing, says the company.

Eco Grazer is a dual purpose cattle and sheep block. High levels of sugar energy and an optimum profile of degradable and un-degradable proteins help to maintain performance from mid summer onwards when grass digestibility declines, says Rumenco.

Costs are; cattle – 15-20p/animal a day, sheep – 6p/animal a day (01283-511211, fax 01283-511013).

Sticky ribbon gets stuck into flies

AVOID the unpleasant atmosphere associated with fly sprays by using sticky ribbon to kill them, says distributor of a new range of Swedish fly control products, Pharmacia & Upjohn.

Its Flyson range includes sticks, paper traps, rolls and tubes coated in a natural non-toxic resin. Flies like edges and other flies, so printing red stripes and a fly motif design on the traps helps attract them, according to the company.

The fly rolls can be hung from ceilings or walls with fly sticks being suitable for bending over the edges of window sills, ledges and shelves, it says.

Fly control products start from £1.50 (01536-276400).

New Aussie combs speed up shearing

SPEED up sheep shearing with two new combs developed in Australia and marketed by Cox, says the company.

The Super Shear In Flight (94mm wide) and Wide Flight (97mm) combs have deeper gullets and longer teeth giving better combing and a faster shear, says Cox. Extended grooves help to eliminate the build-up of grease allowing the comb to run through the fleece with less effort, giving a cleaner cut, it adds.

Both types of comb are supplied in packs of five at £12.44 a comb (01207-529000, fax 01207-529966).

Multi-strand electric gate closes easily

COVER your gateways cheaply and easily with Taragate, a multi-strand electric gate, says distributor Atlantic.

Made from permanent materials, it is compatible with all existing electric fencing systems and the multi strands are operated by one handle, says the company.

Two and four strand versions are available to suit all types of stock, and Taragates are easily closed according to the company. Gateways from 1.2m-6m (4ft-20ft) can be covered, it adds.

Prices start from £10.66 (01789-740366, fax 01789-740696).

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

FIRST cut silage was a most frustrating experience. We started cutting on Sunday May 16, after a good weather forecast for the following week.

As soon as we had finished mowing, the heavens opened and the forecast promptly changed for the worse. We spent the next week, prompted by the weatherman, stopping and starting, but it never rained again. We finally finished on Saturday May 22, many grey hairs later. We had good crops on most fields, with the heaviest on the best established clover leys.

Aftermaths have, so far, been slow to recover despite a good dose of slurry and the last two weeks have seen the milkers moving ever faster round the paddocks. They are now covering about six to eight acres a day.

We spent the spring teaching cows how to eat lots of grass and they seem to have learned rather too well, so I have reluctantly decided to buffer feed with big bale silage until cover improves over the whole farm.

Fresh calvers are receiving only 5kg of concentrates compared with the 8 or 9kg we were feeding last year. They appear to be milking well, but it is too soon to see if body condition is affected or if cows are compensating by eating extra grazed grass.

Because it is so wet, we have also brought most dry cows inside until the weather improves. They will be able to make use of the mature big-bale grass silage we made last summer, while their paddock recovers.

At the end of April, we planted nine acres of peas undersown with grass/clover, with the intention of producing some arable silage to complement wheat and grass silage. Sadly nobody told the pesky pigeons that peas are not for bird consumption and they nibbled off the shoots as they came through.

I have discovered who might be paying for the postage on our cattle passports – of which we received seven today in separate envelopes. My farm manager, Guy, telephoned to find out why one passport had not been returned and was told that from now on we must chase any unreturned passports within one month or we will be charged £50. &#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

IT MUST just be coincidence, but every month as I sit down to write we are having a wet day. Maybe its happening to ease my conscience that I am not missing an opportunity to get on with some jobs outside.

We started our May lambing on May 15 and fortunately the heavy rain and winds which battered us in the early part of the month relented. It has been mainly dry, but wind and some rather cold days have retarded grass growth since.

Lambing has gone relatively well and we have only had one really bad stormy night which claimed a few casualties. We were down to 60 ewes to lamb, out of 325, after 14 days with all but a few of the hoggs lambed in this period.

Ewes and hoggs are milking well with mostly good strong lambs; on occasions lambs have been too big with a few hoggs needing some assistance.

Another problem with hoggs has been wool around the udder and certainly in another year I will belly clip, if not taking their coats off altogether before lambing.

We lamb on a set stocking basis of around five ewes an acre. Ewes were dosed into their fields on Apr 2 and will remain in them until weaning. No concentrates are fed except at tupping time and ewes were fed hay from early February until late March.

The Blackies, however, were tupped on the hill without feed and foraged for themselves until they were brought down to a lower field on Apr 9.

Lambing fields are checked four times daily, except in severe weather when I go more often. Lambs are iodined and marked at birth on a daily colour system and then rung 24 hours later.

The system certainly reduces costs greatly and with a lambing % of about 150 offers good returns. Through good grazing management, I am hoping to increase lamb sales off their mothers this year with clover rich pasture increasing.

Both our spring barley fields are undersown, one with a permanent high clover mixture and the other with a catch crop of Italian ryegrass. Hopefully, this will allow us to finish many May born lambs off grass. I am also looking into growing high protein legumes for another year. &#42

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

IVE found the weather in the last month very frustrating. Silage making was delayed by more than a week.

Luckily, there was a four-day window in which the contractor was in our area, so we managed a 30-hour wilt and, by tedding it once, reduced the moisture by 10%. We then picked up 110 acres in just over a day.

Maize spraying has also been held up and the spray is still in the cans, while the nightshade is going rampant – in one field it is a complete mat.

After 2in of rain in three days we have housed 50 dry cows. The trouble is, we try to restrict grass intake to dry cows by feeding barley straw in ring feeders and, out of 20 acres, three acres is a sea of mud. Its not ideal conditions to calve cows in.

Wet weather has also affected cow dry matter intakes for the second year in a row. Milk yield from grass is down by 1.5 litres a cow compared with 1997. Cows have access to barley straw at milking times and they are eating 1kg which has helped keep milk fat up.

That is not all; we booked a digger for a week – to start when the land would be dry at the beginning of June. We now have two sites, one shed extension and the other a new bridge across the river to the new block of land, looking like the battle of Flanders. Next time Ill book the digger for February; it will be probably be drier.

The cubicle house extension is a direct result of the farm assured scheme run by our milk buyer. For many years weve had 10% more cows than cubicles. I personally have never had a problem with that, whatever time, day or night, I have never seen everyone of the cubicles in use.

At the same time we are converting our one loose housing area into cubicles as well, partly because we can house more cows in the same area. We also have more mastitis problems on straws yards, even when using extra straw and routinely cleaning out every four weeks. The cubicles in part of the shed will be portable to allow us to use it for dry cows and calving before cows are winter housed. &#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

MAY has flown by with first cut grass silage successfully completed by May 26. This was a day or two later than we wished to conclude operations, mainly due to wet weather in mid-May delaying our start.

We also had an enforced delay between the two farms when our forager spout refused to swivel. The eventual fault was tracked down to a faulty contact breaker, deep in the electrical control box. Ingenuity provided a temporary solution when a spent match was used to close the offending circuit.

Mechanical problems apart, the silage operation proved successful with good wilting conditions. But there seems to be more dead material than usual in the base of what were heavy crops, which may compromise silage quality slightly. We decided to use an inoculant on all our clamp silage this season, as we hope to obtain improved performance from forage.

We are now in our busiest cattle selling period. Prices are firmer than a year ago, although still well behind pre-BSE values.

There has been much talk of top-down pricing by many supermarkets in May. We, like many others perhaps, have begun to doubt where closer links with the end of the retail chain, through producer clubs, is leading us. This muscle flexing on their part, in the face of a firmer market, does them little credit given the lot of producers in the last three years.

Over the last three years we have swung cattle production on the silage beef system at Denton away from bulls towards heifers. This is because we can only claim BSPS on 90 male animals. Last year we found that heifer gross margins were slightly ahead of non-subsidy bulls.

We use Continental dairy-bred heifers purchased as calves for the system. The problem that can arise with heifer production is that if you get the management wrong, you end with animals that must be sold at light weights because they can become over fat.

Last year, the average sale weight was 520kg. The sale weights for this season have lifted to over 550kg with little sign of over fatness being a problem. Now it looks as though heifers can justify their place in the system. &#42

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