Miles Saunders

21 November 1997

Miles Saunders

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.

I THOUGHT that the work-load was meant to reduce once all the crops were planted, but at the moment we still seem as hectic as ever. We are working hard at getting all the stock into various barns for the winter – sorting out water, and feed barriers within each barn.

We needed to make some better feed mangers. I wanted these to hold enough silage to last 24 hours, provide a barrier that the cattle could not throw silage over, and one that kept the food clean. I could not find anything on the market that fitted our specifications or price. So, we have resurrected some old straight 4.6m long barriers with extra metal work and new wood in the bottoms. A silage retaining barrier was made 76cm high that is slotted into a concrete plinth that is 15cm high. The barriers can be removed if necessary. The aim is to reduce time spent shovelling cattle feed.

Milk protein levels were starting to become a bit of a worry through October, with 60 of the 170 cows currently milking being fresh calvers. The protein had been all right at the beginning of the month at 3.26%, but by the end of October had dropped to 3.23%. When we sampled for cell counts this month, we also had the butterfat and protein tested. We found that the cows were calving in at a protein level of 3.4%, and then were slowly dropping down to 2.8% at around six weeks. During this time we had changed from third cut silage at 18% protein to first cut silage at 14% protein. It then became clear that there was a shortage of energy and protein in the diet, so we have increased the level of organic beans we are feeding to 2kg, from 1kg, changed barley to molasses and included 1kg of chopped straw to open up the diet. The protein level then subsequently increased to 3.25% and then 3.45%.n

Milk protein levels were starting to be a worry for Miles Saunders in October – but changes to the winter rations have now improved levels.

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