Peter Wastenage, in partnership with his parents, farms a 121ha (300 acre) farm tenanted from Clinton Devon Estates. He milks 175 cows, rears his own replacements and grows 40ha (100 acres) of maize
IN 1966 my parents moved from their native Gloucester to farm Tidwell Barton, Budleigh Salterton. It was originally run as a mixed unit of dairy, beef, sheep and arable until six years ago when I returned from Seale-Hayne. To support another partner within the business it was necessary to look closely at the farm and improve our profitability.
We enrolled the help of John Morgan, a Genus consultant, who isolated the strengths and weaknesses of each enterprise and determined which ones were profitable or not! This led to the end of the beef and arable enterprises. Since this date, the beef sector has gone through the floor and the arable through the roof! However, we concentrated our resources on the two enterprises which appealed to us and were more profitable.
The dairy enterprise expanded from 75 cows and sheep numbers increased from 100 to 250 breeding ewes. This continued famously for the first three years. We bought quota when we could afford it and leased the remainder. But in one year leasing costs rose 6p/litre to nearly 20p/litre. This meant that production costs had to be reduced to a minimum, hence we heavily rely on maize silage and grazed grass. Maize was increased to the current level of 100 acres to provide all our silage requirements.
We tried grass silage on permanent pasture, three to four-year leys and 18-month Italian leys. However, on our light soil with low rainfall these could not be produced as economically as maize. If we had heavier soil or more rainfall then the situation would be very different. We annually review this system with growing cost, but at the moment things will remain the same.
We are in a relatively poor grass growing area and maize silage becomes nearly as cheap to grow as grazed grass, with IACS payments included. We grow grass because of the lower fixed costs needed to utilise it and it complements the maize well.
Turnout normally occurs from mid to late February with grazing extending into December. This sounds fantastic. However, we feed winter ration from mid-June to mid-September due to drought conditions. In the past, we have relied solely on maize silage to fill this gap, but this year we will reintroduce forage crops to aid the balance of the protein/energy ratio of the ration. We are now solely a dairy unit as the breeding ewes and lambs did not suit this extended grazing policy and were sold last year.n