Mike Allwood is owner-
occupier of a 82ha
(200-acre) farm near
Nantwich, Cheshire. The
175-cow dairy herd block
calves during May and June.
Mike is also director of Farm
Produce Marketing, based
on the farm, which makes
and sells Orchard Maid
frozen yogurt, and puts
packs of Cheshire milk on to
airline breakfast trays.
THE two-year conversion of our land to organic status began on April 1.
The cows must then be fed organic grass for three months before the milk can be sold as organic, that is on July 1, 2000. The other requirements for organic stock management, such as welfare and veterinary considerations, must start at least nine months before milk sale, by October 1, 1999.
Our main consideration this year will be how to cope with not using fertiliser and crop sprays.
Due to the fertiliser restriction we expect to produce less grass, and I anticipate that most of the farm will be grazed after first cut silage has been taken. We have, therefore, bought 60t of maize silage from a local farmer and will re-ensile this at Burland at the end of May.
The plan is to create three narrow faces by subdividing one of our clamps with straw bale walls, so we can feed relatively small amounts of maize through the summer without suffering face losses.
The main task for Guy, the manager, this summer is to introduce clover over the whole farm – red clover in mainly conservation fields and white elsewhere. We have started with a spring reseed of Italian ryegrass/red clover undersown under spring wheat. This will be cut for arable silage in July or August.
Two fields will be ploughed and reseeded in the autumn, while on the rest of the leys we will directly introduce clover seed into a surface tilth created by an Einbock harrow. We hope the clover will start fixing nitrogen next summer and be in full swing by the year 2000.
Because we cannot use sprays or treated seed, it is likely there will be crop failures. Frit fly, for example, has wiped out our rye in the past, and I expect to have to do some further seeding next summer before clover is fully established. We need to learn much more about the habits and life cycles of pests and weeds so their effects can be minimised by good management.
It is May 10 and I am in my customary dither about whether we should start mowing for silage. We have had two glorious days but the forecast is uncertain for the next week. Who would be a dairy farmer? *
Mike Allwood and farm manager Guy (left) plan to introduce clover across the whole farm this summer.