Paddocks lift yield
The new paddock grazing
system was a major feature
of an open day at Newton
Rigg College, Cumbria, and
visitors heard that it has
contributed to a
improvement for the
colleges 200 cows.
Jeremy Hunt reports
THE new paddock grazing system at Newton Rigg Colleges Sewborwens Farm in Penrith cost around £3000 to install but its impact on the efficient use of grazed grass has lifted yields by 900 litres a cow.
"Like most dairy farmers we want more milk from grazed grass and the paddock system has given us much greater control of our grazing," farm manager John Berry told the meeting, part of a national programme of Grassland Management – Practice into Profit.
Reviewing the first season of the switch from set-stocking, Mr Berry said that yield from grazed forage had increased from 1679 litres to 2302 litres a cow.
According to the herds Axient Milkminder costings, yield from all forage a cow has increased from 2291 litres to 3855 litres.
"Our rolling figures show an increased stocking rate from 2.28 to 2.42 cows a ha. Comparing August 1997 with August 1998 we have cut concentrate from an average of 3.9kg to 2.7kg a cow a day.
"Taking account of the milk price during the same period, which is down from 23.1p to 19.6p, our rolling margin over feed a cow for that same twelve-month period is now £1206 compared with £1333," said Mr Berry.
The £3000 invested in infrastructure of the paddock system has involved dividing a block of 32ha (79 acres) of grazing land – mainly three to four-year leys – into 21 paddocks of 1.4-1.7ha (2.9-4.2 acres). Costs have included mains electric fencing, six additional fixed water troughs and piping.
The herd has been split into a low and high yielding group, grazing separate areas of the paddock system for two to three milkings. No permanent tracks have yet been laid; existing earth tracks, because they only have to cope with around 90-plus cows at a time, have so far sufficed.
"The paddocks, which have received about 200kg of N a ha, have undoubtedly given us much greater control of grazing. The aim is to extend the grazing season in both spring and autumn.
"Depending on weather we hope to graze cows until late October or even early November; normally we would have cows off grass by early October. We plan to turn cows out for just a few hours and know that next day they can have a completely fresh bite.
"Ideally the low-yielding group could graze into early November where weather is favourable."
Greater control of early season grass aims to bring turnout forward from mid-April to late March.
"We are achieving an efficient rotation of grass growth so that our pastures are not all growing at the same rate," said Mr Berry.