Tim Gue farms 480ha
(1200 acres) near Ashurst
in Sussex. In addition to
the arable enterprise which
includes wheat, oilseed
rape and 112ha (280 acres)
of maize, the farm is
stocked with 220 pedigree
Holstein dairy cows and
350 Mule ewes
WITH harvest almost complete, our priorities turn to cows. Before calving started on Sept 15, our herdsmen Phillip and Rob carefully managed our two dry cow groups. The aim with the far-offs is a slight condition improvement of about half a score from grass and a little silage when necessary.
The close ups receive 22kg maize silage, 22kg grass silage, 2kg soya, high quality minerals and whatever grass they can find. The straw shortage means we will calve outside for as long as possible, cows being fed with feeder trailers.
Calving started a week early and heifers, mainly by sires Bellwood, Winchester, Formation and Lord Lily look promising. Now calving is upon us, cows are being housed and fed a high density maize-based diet. Maintaining fibre levels will be critical, particularly in cubicles, and with straw so expensive we are trying to source lucerne.
Work has begun on a three-year dairy expansion project and cow numbers will eventually rise to 450. The first phase will involve a 170-cow cubicle building over an underground slurry store with a whole winters capacity. Cows will be on slats and cubicles will have mattresses and sawdust.
Completion of this stage will mean few cows in loose housing and hopefully a reduction in mastitis and cell counts. This is our biggest headache at present with cell counts exceeding 200 rather than our target of 100.
It will also allow cattle to be housed at home, saving constant travelling to and from outlying farms. Additionally, it will eliminate slurry lagoons. As cow numbers have expanded and following a series of wet winters, these have become difficult to manage.
With maize harvest almost upon us, I attended an MGA harvest workshop. We were surprised by maize maturity and how we always underestimate dry matter. Our maize has matured quickly with Illias ahead of other supposedly earlier varieties for the second year running and looking a huge crop. Contractors started on Sept 17.
However, some crops could have done with more nitrogen following last winters leaching. Estimating nitrogen requirement for maize is always difficult, so I am pleased MGA will evaluate new systems of calculating requirements to enhance its N-Predictor service. *