Farmer technical comment - Ben Walker

Published 26 March 15

Ben Walker milks a 160 strong Holstein Friesian autumn calving herd, on 69 ha of grassland in Norfolk. A further 18 ha is rented for grazing in-calf heifers and about 30 ha of maize will be drilled this year.

“Cows first went out on 16 February and we’re currently grazing about 80 day,” says Ben. “Intakes are 7-8kg DM/head.

“Grass growth rates remain pretty slow, at 16.9kg DM/ha/day or 118.3kg/week, hence the rest of the herd still being housed. As a result of the low growth and the fact cows are grazing well, average farm cover has dropped to 1,678 Kg DM/ha, which is far from ideal. But I’m continuing with the current grazing round, in a bid to maintain the wedge once the growth finally explodes! This has meant cows are going into pre-grazing covers a little over 2,000kg DM/ha but, ideally, I’d like to turn into 2,700-2,800kg DM/ha.

“Grazing cows are still receiving a TMR ration at night, including 6.5kg of concentrates, 2.7kg DM of grass silage and 4.5 kg DM maize, in order to maintain yield. That group is currently averaging a yield of 31 litres.

“Grazing ground has received two applications of fertiliser, totalling 180kg urea, equalling 80 kg N.Silage ground has received one application of 200kg of Sulphurcut 22-4-14 + 7.5% SO3, equalling 44 kg N.

“Essentially, I’m just waiting for spring to properly arrive. I don’t want any more white over frosts like we’ve seen some mornings this week, and then we’ll be away!”