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
WE housed the milkers at night almost three weeks age (Oct 20) because ground conditions were deteriorating.
I reasoned we could continue grazing by day for some time on accessible fields, and when the monsoon subsided, venture further away.
Because the weather has stayed warm, grass now seems to be gaining on us. But most fields were grazed short in September or October, so if necessary, will stand the winter without being grazed again. If we dont manage a late grazing we should have plenty of early bite in spring.
Cows have performed well off grass this summer, with milk continuing to be 500 litres/day above last year. I am sure the weather played a big part in this progress, but it would be nice to take a little credit. Three years ago we switched from set stocking with buffer feeding to a rotational system based on grass alone and I think it has taken until now to reap the benefits.
It took us a long time to learn the system, particularly being prepared to graze paddocks tightly. Our cows attitude to grazing has also been slow to change. They now know they must eat what is in front of them and that when they charge around making lots of noise we are not going to let them have silage.
Grazing a fresh piece of ground every day means we have been able to keep cows outside when formerly they would have been in. Even when ground is wet, fields recover well after grazing – the key is to only cover each piece of ground once. Accessing paddocks by track has increased our effective grazing area. Every acre is now grazed whereas formerly there was a large, wasted lying area behind the buildings, which probably received half of the farms complement of manure every season.
If all this sounds too good to be true, you are right. What we havent sorted out yet is how to construct cow tracks that last well without too much maintenance, dont cost a fortune or cause lameness. *
Mike Allwood and his cows have finally learned the secrets of rotational grazing, but cheap, easily maintained cow tracks remain a mystery.
Giles Henry rents 105ha
(260 acres) on a 10-year
lease and 114ha (280
acres) of heather moorland
near Selkirk in the Scottish
Borders which is in organic
conversion. Cropping is
mainly grass with 14ha (36
acres) of spring barley. The
farm is stocked with 450
breeding ewes, 85 hoggs
and 50 Luing cows with
followers and finishers
OUR barley was finally harvested during the first week of October. After seeing the forecast for the week, we realised we needed to take any opportunity we could. I checked with our usual contractor, but he had a days cutting before he could be with us.
So we didnt miss out on any good days, I organised an additional combine through our local machinery ring.
The fields were slightly soft and moisture higher than I would have liked, but we were able to get both fields harvested and straw baled. One field had a large grass and clover content among the straw, so bales were wrapped. This should make good feed for bulling heifers along with some barley.
We harvested 54 wet tonnes off 15ha (37 acres). This would have been considerably more had we not had gales and rain during the last few days of September.
Weather has continued to be mild but wet, so it has been full steam ahead getting winter accommodation ready for cattle. The wood chip corral is finished and cattle will be ready to move in this week.
We are having to alter our large slatted shed to comply with organic standards. We will have four pens, each holding about 20 yearling cattle. In the slatted area there will be an ad-lib feed bunker and a length of trough for concentrate feeding.
Cattle will access what was formerly the feed passage for their bedded lying area. Pens will be divided using an electrified net to save on the cost of gates.
We are also carrying out further modifications to the cattle handling system with some extra gates and penning. With this, the corral and work to the slatted shed, I feel I should be taking out shares with our local blacksmith.
On Oct 31 we gain full organic status and will have prime lambs and cattle to sell.
These first stock sales since February should start to give our cash flow a positive look. *
Cattle will soon move to the long-awaited wood chip corral, but Giles Henry faces more building work.
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 over 140ha
(350 acres) of chalkland.
Clyde won best grass
manager 2000 in the BGS
regional south-west contest
THE vet from Del Monte paid us a visit recently to PD all the spring calvers at Rainbarrow.
Well, he did say yes 84% of the time, the remaining 16% were negative.
Of those not in-calf, some cows were white, leggy and had Canadian or American accents. Others were late-calvers, had twins or were not clean after calving.
However, to increase numbers in a closed herd we did served all cows, and I mean everything – old timers, three-quartered and high cell counts. So it is gratifying that nine, 10 and 11 lactation cows are in-calf. Some old girls are by Castlerhydd Galleon, Burgate Bullion and other bulls; all of whom had negative scores for Profit Lifetime Index. These are tough cows.
We also have some tough and ugly cows by a test bull called Sandisfarne Sultan. I remember when they were classified – or rather they were not because they were too ugly. Theyre still here milking well and getting back in calf each year.
As Rainbarrow will close for December and January, all empty cows went across the road to the autumn herd. They will carry on milking and, if good enough, will be served again. So what started out at a 16% culling rate could halve to 8%.
Our overall objective is to improve herd fertility. This requires a cow whose first priority is to clean herself up after calving. She must also save some energy from milk production to preserve body condition and hold to first service.
The Jersey cross and Meuse-Rhine-Yssel cows weve used for this purpose are all in calf. They are in their first lactation and have settled nicely, growing dense coats to keep them warm when theyre out on stubble turnips over winter.
Looking to the future, it seems what we require from geneticists is a tough, ugly, black and fertile cow that gives some, but not too much milk, with low feed requirement. And if its not too much trouble, a cow that hibernates over winter. *
Clyde Jones wants all his girls to be tough and ugly in the future… And if possible sleep through winter.
Bill and Jonathan Metcalf
Bill and Jonathan Metcalf
rent 89ha (220 acres) of
grassland, plus moorland
grazing, near Barnard Castle,
and own a further unit 12
miles away, both are
situated in the Less Favoured
Area of Teesdale. The farms
are stocked with 120
sucklers, including 20
pedigree Blonde dAquitaines,
and 1200 ewes with
PREVIOUS ramblings have been depressing to say the least, so I was determined this month to be more optimistic and write about encouraging and positive progress. Unfortunately, my piece would just about have finished here.
I will not mention being messed about by abattoirs who appear to be able to do whatever they want. Nor being left without enough time to move all the blood tested stock within the time scales permitted, from when licences were finally issued.
However, on a positive note, the officials who blood tested our stock were extremely helpful and efficient. I hope this does not get them into too much bother with DEFRA.
We have managed to move about 200 breeding sheep and three bulls, which have all travelled less than 10km. Hopefully plenty of their progeny will be seen locally in the coming years.
The cattle at Barningham have been taken inside to help the grazing position for sheep, while at Shipley they are being fed outside to save bedding – there is no grass to save.
We have had other enquiries for breeding sheep for later in the year, but will the enquiries result in sales? Prices mentioned do seem to be improving slightly.
Some work has finally started in connection with the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, including fencing and renovation of a roadside wall. The wall stands around a bare, wet field from which stock have been removed. Because of the obvious implications of foot-and-mouth, some work has had to be rescheduled for next year.
All animal movements have remained legitimate, contrary to earlier predictions. A licence has finally been issued to move our stranded heifers the 150m back to the main farmstead. Obtaining this licence was no mean feat and only due to the hard work and determination of our local vets, for which we are grateful.
However, the literature which accompanied the autumn movements stated that it was possible to move stock up to 500km by road on foot. Im thinking of setting off for north Wales with some fat lambs and the dog so it could be a while before Im heard of again. *
Will Bill Metcalf ever be seen again? Hes thinking of doing a Pied Piper impression in an attempt to sell fat lambs.