Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Winter wheat, barley, oats and beans are also grown, and sold on the organic market.
AFTER a number of dry years, it is nice to be in a situation where we have plenty of grass for the livestock. Second-cut silage was made in early July. The red clover swards have really shown what they can do this year.
The high quality of the silage leys will have made up for the disappointing whole-crop. The whole-crop was undersown with 3kg/acre of red clover last autumn, as hopefully a way of getting the red clover established better. The whole field of 27 acres went flat so that the crop had to be mown first, rather than direct cutting it. It also meant that the red clover was then non-existent, and the field has since been cultivated and reseeded again.
Most jobs on the farm are done by the farm staff, but we always aim to keep our tractor numbers to a minimum. A 130hp tractor is hired from the end of May to the middle of October for all the hard work. Also, a second tractor of 100hp is hired from late July to the middle of October to help with the land work. Staff numbers have also risen to cover the harvest period. We have taken on a student from the local agricultural college, and also a student from the USA.
Cow numbers have increased over the last two years, and we are now at the point where we could do with selling some, prior to this years intake of heifers. I took two heifers to the local market a couple of weeks ago. When I arrived, I asked for a valuation before they were off-loaded, and was told that I may get £550. So they came home again, not even going through the ring. I hadnt realised how far the trade for all cattle had slipped – farmers selling store calves must have been wondering what to do next.
We need to choose the bulls for this years breeding season. The choice is immense, with bulls from all over the world. My criteria is a bull that will produce cows that are very tidy, 700kg+ on milk, preferably a plus on protein, a large chest width, and with no size increase.
Size is important as I do not want cows to outgrow the cubicles – that results in injuries, and ultimately the need to change cubicles. It is also important that we produce cows that are strong and will last the rigors of the large dairy herd.n
The high quality grass silage leys have made up for the disappointing whole-crop forage. The second-cut grass/red clover silage was made in early July.