Is that ditch limiting your utilisation?

Published 13 March 15

If you cannot get cows out onto the paddock, you are reducing its potential and utilisation, according to Piers Badnell, AHDB Dairy Technical Extension Officer.

“Last year, I was invited to a discussion group meeting on what was termed a heavy farm and, without doubt, the land had ‘a bit of body’ to it. Turnout had been brought forward by a month on this farm from the usual turnout date, due to the laying of concrete railway sleeper tracks, and to tackling drainage issues.

“The previous owner of the farm drained the land when grants were available, however, these were not maintained properly and the ditches were silted up when the host farmer took over.  

“One of his first jobs was to clean ditches and many of the drains started running straightaway. Others were jetted and repairs were made to any collapsed drains.

“The net result was that stock could go out earlier, soils were warmer, grass growth started earlier and, above all, pasture utilisation increased. The economic situation is tight at the moment but, by growing more grass, and utilising it more, costs can be reduced.

“Take a walk on wet fields that have late grass growth and are boggy underfoot. Are they really wet fields or is it the result of blocked drains?” For more information on drainage, download chapter 10 ‘Maximising sward productivity’ of Grass+.

In the early summer, AHDB Dairy and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds are releasing a new publication, ‘A best practice guide for drainage, maintenance and renewal’, more details will follow nearer to the time.