Introducing our new Farmer Focus contributor…
Louis Baugh and his wife farm 186ha (460 acres) at Neatishead Hall and 91ha (225 acres) at Beech Farm near Norwich in Norfolk. About 100 autumn calving Holstein Friesian cows and followers are grazed on Broads ESA marshes with forage from Italian ryegrass and maize
AS A new contributor to Farmer Focus I though I would outline my family and farm background.
I am a miners son from Yorkshire and my route into farming was via pigs and poultry, working in most livestock sectors before settling with cows. I attended Harper Adams where I met my wife Fran, then moved into farm management. Fran worked in the dairy feed industry as a technical specialist for 13 years before returning home to split her time between independent dairy consultancy and our own cows.
The dairy sits on the margin between grazing and arable land, the cows are grazed on ESA peat marshes bordering the River Ant and two nature reserves. The pasture level is below river level and in some places sea level. Our grazings were formerly reed beds cut for roofing. Today the water table is controlled by Internal Drainage Board pumps which lift the water to river level. Our annual rainfall is 24in. We can supplement this by turning our pumps off and retaining water with sluice boards.
Springs can be cold and late, causing our permanent pasture to grow away slowly. Our usual turnout onto the marsh is May 1. The ESA agreement limits inputs and to be honest the indigenous species would show limited response if they were increased. Summer grazing is extensive, and to do otherwise would cause widespread damage by poaching.
Since 1982 we have evolved our feeding methods from the traditional East Norfolk system of variable marsh grass silage kale, sugar beet tops, straw and other arable by-products.
The current system is based on 80 acres of Italian ryegrass grown as a catch crop on our arable land. It is drilled in September after a cereal crop, with one cut made in mid-May. Muck is spread and ploughed down and 38-48 acres are drilled with an early maturing maize variety.
That gives us security of forage quality and quantity which we could not get from our marshes. Surplus marsh grass is baled and wrapped for youngstock and dry cows. The constraints of low rainfall and poor soil type dictates that margins are best maintained by aiming for high results a cow, through autumn calving, feeding ryegrass and maize silage mixed with straights. *
New contributor Louis Baugh is a first generation farmer, and runs 100 Holstein Friesians on the Broads ESA marshes in north east Norfolk.