Farmer technical comment - Ben Jacobs

Published 20 June 14

Ben Jacobs is Herd Manager at Splattenridden Farm, Cornwall, where 330 cows are milked on an autumn block calving system. The farm’s 400 acres are on light soil, 400ft above sea level with both the north and south Cornish coasts visible from the farm.

About 100 replacement heifers are reared outside and cows are self fed maize and grass silage. Target turnout date is early February. The dairy is part of a mixed farm growing potatoes and vegetables. 

Grass supply

Average Farm Cover       2,305kg

Pre-grazing cover            3,300

7-day grass growth          70kg DM/ha/day

Herd grass demand         71.5kg DM/ha/day

Cow performance

Milk yield and quality       15.5 litres/cow/day, 4.35% fat, 3.75% protein, 1.29kg MS

Concentrate feed level     1.5kg/day

“Even with 17 out of the 92ha grazing block shut up, for either short-term silage or set aside ready for the close to calving group, it still seems to be a struggle to prevent the grass from producing a seed head and losing its quality,” says Ben.

“So far, we have pre-mown about 30% of the grazing block in front of the cows to help restore some order. Pre-mowing is something we have done for the past four years and we have been very pleased with how the cows have taken to it.

“We are still following the cows with a light dressing of 20kg nitrogen per hectare. We plan to keep this up until mid-July, at which point we will stop until late September when we will put a final dressing of 40kg/ha to carry some cover into the winter.

“Although we are going into some fairly high covers at the moment, if this dry spell persists I can soon see a shortfall in our pasture supply. Something we were told at a recent discussion group meeting was that we must have a drought contingency plan, a hard thing to believe, remembering the downpours of the spring!”

 “Maize was drilled in near perfect conditions and is growing nicely. It looks like it could be a second bumper year,” Ben concludes.