8 August 1997



Producing yields from forage of 5000 litres a cow is not impossible. Two south-west producers told the Genus National Forage Conference how they meet this target. Jessica Buss reports

OFFERING mixed forage diets ad-lib allows Somerset producers John and Jackie Davis to achieve over 5200 litres a cow off forage from a herd average of 6800-litres.

The high yield from forage is achieved using a simple but efficient low labour system without a complete diet feeder. The farm has limited quota, but the stocking rate is low at two cows/ha (0.8 cows/acre).

The Daviss have run the 39ha (96-acre) Tadhill Farm for four years. In that time, cow numbers have increased from 35 cows plus followers to 55 cows and followers. And in the last three years yield from forage has increased from 3000 to 5277 litres, according to their Genus Milkminder dairy costings.

The Daviss Genus Manage-ment consultant James Shenton says plans to increase the herd size to 60 cows were hampered in 1994 when the quota leasing price in-creased above milk price increases.

More had to be made of the farms own resources to make a profit from leased litres. And much of the increase in milk from forage has come from offering a mix of forages to increase dry matter intakes, says Mr Davis. "Presenting the cows with high quality forage means they eat more forage and can be fed less concentrate."

Mr Davis feeds 0.11kg/litre of milk, with annual concentrate use of 774kg a cow, achieving a margin over purchased feed of £1590 litres a cow.

Cows calve all the year round and are supplemented with maize from turnout in April to help them adjust to a grass diet.

Mr Davis judges the grass available as he collects the cows for milking to ensure cows are fed forage ad lib. Electric fences are seldom used and cows are moved quickly around the fields to ensure grass does not get above 10cm (4in) or below 5-6cm (2-2.5in). Fields that get ahead of the cows are cut and clamped for silage.

"We make our own silage not just to save costs but to be in control," says Mr Davis. He cuts when the grass and weather allow and small acreages are taken and clamped so silaging is used as a grazing tool.

During July and August forage turnips are grown to make up forage shortfalls and to maintain the yield from forage close to the 20 litres a cow a day that is achieved from turnout. And in the autumn, maize is introduced to supplement grass.

The cows winter diet consists of half maize and half grass silage fed in troughs, with concentrate fed in the parlour to a maximum of 6kg a cow. The target for yield from forage in winter is 15 litres a cow a day. Extra minerals are fed to compensate for the low level of concentrates. &#42

John Davis cuts small acreages of silage using his own machinery when the grass and weather allow.

James Shenton …more has to be made of the farms resources to make a profit from leased quota.


&#8226 Maximise intakes by mixing forages.

&#8226 Manage sward height tosupply ad lib grass.

&#8226 Grow turnips for summer.

&#8226 Keep concentrate feeding low.

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