REPORTS FROM THE SHARP END…
Stephen Brandon farms
100ha (250 acres) at New
Buildings Farm, Stafford, in
a ring fence, with another
30ha (73 acres) of grazing
taken annually five miles
way. He has 170 pedigree
Holstein Friesians and 110
dairy replacements. About
28ha (70 acres) of cereals
are grown each year
OUR main block of first cut, 34ha, was picked up on May 6. Chopping started at 1pm and it was all clamped by 9pm.
The yield was not very high, but regrowth was very fast and cows were grazing some of the paddocks again 12 days later, bringing more high quality grass into the rotation. Average grass cover remains high at over 3000kg DM/ha.
On May 23-24, we cut a further 10ha of first cut – mostly this was away from home where the young stock are grazing, plus two paddocks that needed a tight trimming.
All the silage area received 72kg/ha of N and 48kg/ha of K straight after cutting. Grazed paddocks continue to receive 62kg/ha of N after each grazing.
Fertiliser will be reduced later in the season after second cut, although stocking rates are a lot tighter this year. The annual grazing area has been reduced by 16ha and we have the added inconvenience of British Gas laying a large gas main diagonally across 11 paddocks taking out 4-5ha.
At last we have run out of concentrates for the cows! Another target achieved. We had been feeding 60kg/day, in total, to the better cows.
Three days after concentrates finished the milk was going up, with the herd averaging 24 litres, and the two best cows giving over 40 litres. Maybe if we had used our current system ten or 15 years ago and fed less cake, BSE may not have caused us so many problems.
The BGS Plate Meter Discussion Group met at Jerry and Jon Riders farm in Wiltshire in early May. A stimulating discussion on farm was followed by a comparison of group members accounts. These group meetings with like-minded farmers have convinced me that a grass-based system is right for our farm.
Now that we have confidence in the ability of grass to produce milk and if we can keep our system simple, production costs will be reduced.
In April 97 we changed our milk buyer, moving to a liquid contract, expecting fat and protein percentages to drop as grazed grass became the main stay of the diet. However, fat per cent has remained fairly static and protein per cent is rising, with a recent test of 3.70%. *
Grass regrowth after silage has been very fast, says Stephen Brandon.