26 April 2002


Clyde Jones

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

MEASURING grass is a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a sunny morning. I use a rising plate meter that measures compacted grass yield. A conversion formula gives a dry matter yield.

All very scientific so far and you may be impressed. Except someone in New Zealand in their infinite wisdom decided to call each measurement a plonk. This decision may date back to a reduction in Anchor butter quota to the UK. Therefore, it may be deduced that someone grass measuring is plonking and that they are a plonker.

I recently joined the RSPBs Farmer and Volunteer Alliance to record farmland birds. I do this while measuring grass. The bird numbers were good last year and the number of skylarks breeding is phenomenal, as well as pipits and other birds. We also have good numbers of hares on the farms.

The swallows are back again this year and they must feel the cold now they are here.

Low temperatures have slowed grass growth considerably since we reached magic day – when supply of grass exceeds demand – on Mar 25, when growth was a fantastic 45kg DM/ha.

Then, average cover was 2550kg DM/ha and fields with surplus covers were taken out of the rotation. In fact, we brought over bulling heifers to keep on top of it. But now we are down to a growth rate of 21kg DM/day, which is a bit unsettling. However, the average cover is 2000kg DM/ha not too "seat of the pants" yet.

Cows started their second rotation on Apr 9 and there was sufficient cover for them to produce 25 litres/head a day with milk proteins at 3.39%. They were getting 2kg of maize gluten flat rate fed in the barn before afternoon milking.

We had to double this to avoid bloat as we have had to treat some cows already. We are also offering straw and hay. Also, after watching my wife cooking pasta – she adds one drop of olive oil to the water to stop the frothing – thats the water not me – we now use vegetable oil in water troughs. &#42

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