Geoff Vickers

3 January 1997

Geoff Vickers

Geoff Vickers manages a 445ha (1100-acre) in-hand estate farm in south Cheshire. The 300-cow dairy unit is the main enterprise, plus a sizeable arable section. The farm grows 69ha (170 acres) of forage maize.

HAVING had one cow with a twisted stomach four weeks ago, which was half expected on 100% maize, we are now including 0.75kg of barley straw in the high yielders mix. We are not caustic treating it and so far so good.

The only problem with feeding maize silage alone is how to feed the low yielders and dry cows. If we try to balance it with protein we are over-feeding, so its back to barley straw to dilute the mix.

The new dry cow mix fed up to three weeks before calving is 10kg maize silage, 6kg barley straw and 0.8kg of a 38% protein concentrate. Close to calving they go onto a pre-calving mix which changes the rumen from store to lactation mode.

Traceability has been a buzz word for a while but there seems no doubt the subject is developing some teeth. Daily milk sampling, which is now practiced across the board, has improved quality assurance.

The next step is declaration of rations. BOCM invited The Milk Group into its plant at Newcastle Under Lyme to show us where it was on the subject.

It showed us how its product tracking system worked with an example load on a farm traced back to which shift produced it and where each raw material was sourced. All raw materials had samples stored for periods of three months in case of a query.

As an industry, I am concerned that we have potential problems on farms, particularly in complete diet situations where feedstuffs are often tipped onto the floor in open sheds.

There is potential for feed which arrived in perfect condition to deteriorate over three or four weeks in such storage conditions. It is no good suppliers holding samples of deliveries if feed is spoiling on farms.

Some of the new codes of practice call for farmers to hold samples of deliveries for three months. I think we would need to sample everything on the farm every Monday morning to ensure everybody is happy. I guess we will all have to install huge vertical bins before were finished.

The questions is, at what point do we tell birds to stop "manuring" the fields?n

With feed quality assurance now demanded by some milk buyers, Geoff Vickers is now wondering at what point well tell birds to stop manuring the fields.

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