John Round farms 134ha
(330 acres) in the
Gloucestershire Severn Vale.
It is home to his 180-cow
Roundelm herd of Holstein
Friesians and 180 followers.
Cows average 9500 litres on
twice-a-day milking. Maize
and cereals are also grown
At last! The wettest April this century was over and a months work was crammed into a week, or was it 10 days?
The pre-season form-book was thrown out of the window as far as maize variety – early, medium or late maturing – and field choice went. Each variety was drilled at a date most suited to an early.
However the Aelis and Helix was mostly drilled in the last couple of days of April and on May 1. Helix is being grown for the second year after a successful debut last year. It yielded over 17.25t DM/ha at above 30% starch.
Aelis is our test variety this year, heading the new NIAB list. Its being grown within a team of four varieties in order to spread the risk of one having a bad year. At the same time we drilled a trial plot of eight varieties for Kingshay. Heavier land and fields after first cut were drilled with Hussar or Lincoln with the last sown on May 11, coinciding with the Aelis coming up in the row.
Half the first cut was done on May 5, during dull and overcast conditions and even though spread twice, we struggled to wilt the grass much above 25% DM in 24 hours. The forecast was wet but the following day was dry. You can bet if wed left it for another 24 hours the weather men would have been right.
We await the contractor and a couple of sunny days for the last 50 acres, hopefully before the weekend, so leaving time for studying the form of "barleys and hops" – more fun than dairying, but even less profitable!
Judging by the recent press there are many ways of increasing profits – or reducing losses. Only two spring to mind though, increase output, without increasing costs, or reduce costs, without reducing output.
Youve probably guessed we are attempting the former, as I have serious doubts of the latter. Extended grazing would, for us, create a great deal of extra costs if output was to be maintained – requiring tracks, fences, water troughs, gateways as well as cubicles for another 100 lower yielding cows and the fixed costs to go with them.
Perhaps Im being cynical, its always great to see cows at pasture in May sunshine, trampling on their feed.
Although grass is cheap and available for a couple of months on our dry farm, its not the panacea of cow feed, just another ration ingredient. Until quotas disappear and we move several thousands of miles from our market, I wont be buying a rising plate meter. *
Dry weather in early May allowed John Round to drill maize and take half his first cut of grass silage.