Richard Thompson farms a
325ha (800-acre) mixed
arable and dairy unit near
Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The
200 dairy cows average
6500 litres on a simple, high
forage system. They are
allocated 40ha (100 acres)
of permanent pasture,
44ha (110 acres) of short
term leys and maize grown
in the arable rotation
WE ARE the proud owners of a feeder wagon. It is quite a culture shock for us as we have now completed the full feeding systems cycle.
Ten years ago we were on self-feed silage, then progressed to easy-feed in bunkers. Next we added a midday protein feed and we are offering a total mixed ration. Being in the eastern counties, we have progressed inexorably down the high yield route.
I have been careful to keep our feeder wagon system simple. We have organised it so that as many feeds as possible are in the same place to reduce loading time. We are also going to feed the same ration to all cows, the theory being that higher yielders will eat more than lower yielders. At the moment it is taking us less than an hour to feed 150 cows.
The main ingredients of our ration are: 40kg maize silage, 10kg grass silage, 4.5kg rolled wheat and 4.5kg rape/soya mix.
Instead of feeding a concentrate pellet in the parlour, we will feed 2kg of sugar beet pulp as an appetiser. Being sugar beet growers we can get beet pulp cheaply on a buy-back contract.
We have just ordered our first load of superflow sugar beet pulp pellets. Unfortunately there wasnt much superflow about them.
They were blown into our storage silo and duly stuck solid in a huge lump. Fortunately, a combination of variation in temperature and thumping the side of the silo has caused the beet pulp to break up. I think the crux of the problem was pellets came straight from the factory and were still warm when blown.
Changing systems midway through winter meant we didnt have the confidence to tie into any feed contracts in autumn. Therefore, we have been caught out in a big way with protein prices.
To try to overcome some of this we have decided to use urea in the ration. Cows will get 100g of feed grade urea. This is a cheap source of protein but is not without risks. We must take care to make sure it is accurately weighed and evenly mixed. *
Growing sugar beet means Richard Thompson can buy back beet pulp pellets cheaply. But
they havent been flowing very freely from his storage silo.