Tim and Louise Downes

24 May 2002

Tim and Louise Downes

Tim and Louise Downes

farm 230ha (570 acres)

with Tims parents in

Shrops, of which 139ha

(343 acres) is under

contract. The farm is fully

organic comprising 140

dairy cows plus followers.

Aberdeen Angus beef cattle

are finished and part of the

cereal harvest of wheat,

oats and triticale is

crimped. They also have a

dozen breeding ewes

THERE is something slightly worrying about beginning to type my first article. Thinking back, I can remember an occasional rush for the deadline by dad. As he says, the best work is done with a certain degree of pressure.

We run an organic dairy herd after having the confidence to convert land in 1998. We had been encouraged on many occasions to convert after operating MMB clover trials in the mid-1980s gave incentive to fully use clover.

The emphasis is on using home grown resources and oats, wheat and triticale are all growing well. Other crops grown are spring beans for a protein boost in the dairy ration and red clover/hybrid ryegrass for silage production.

Historically, the dairy herd has been calved to maintain a level profile of supply, however, we are currently moving towards spring calving. Two years ago we started a paddock grazing routine and it has given us more control over feed allocation during a long grazing season.

We have put in an extensive infrastructure of cow tracks, but can see more being required. My wife, Louise and I spent six months in New Zealand where grazing seems to be inbred. She is also an enthusiast and helps run the local Stargrazers discussion group, a really keen bunch.

Turnout this year was Mar 25 when conditions dried underfoot. We didnt manage to beat our earliest turnout date of Mar 11, due to soft pastures.

There are two full time staff at the farm. Herdsman Dave Taylor and Rob Maddox, tractor driver and mechanic. Over winter we had hedgelayers at Park Farm five miles away from home and two men have done a tidy job on 600m (654yds) of old straggly hedge.

This means we have improved about a quarter of the hedges on the 90ha (220-acre) contract farm. We are considering Countryside Stewardship for 88ha (220 acres) at Park Farm as it fits our philosophy, but are awaiting the introduction of an Organic Stewardship.

This years lambs are growing well and are grazing with the Anguses closest to finishing.

By the time this is in print, we hope to have ensiled the red clover and mixed it with white in two self-feed pits, with neighbourly teamwork. &#42

Tim and Louise Downes continue the story of happenings on their Shrops organic dairy unit, begun some years ago by Tims father John.

See more