Farmer comment 22 May

Tom Blanchard milks 350 cows in roughly 50:50 blocks of spring and autumn calvers, near Marlborough in Wiltshire. The cows range from pure Holsteins to Jersey crosses and are milked on a 250-acre platform. Tom also has 36.4ha (90 acres) of maize and 8.1ha (20 acres) of fodder beet.

Average Farm Cover       2,200kg DM/ha     

Pre-grazing cover             3,000        

7-day grass growth          98kg DM/ha

Demand                          73kg DM/ha

Concentrate feed level      2kg/cow

“We have actually grown more grass then we are used to this year, and definitely more than we expected, with the cooler conditions,” says Tom. “It has meant we’ve had a hard time hitting residuals and moving round fast enough. We did shut 15% of the platform up for pit silage some time ago, and are bailing a further 10% tomorrow (21 May).

“The cows are milking well, although yields dropped slightly as the autumn calvers approach drying off. We will also be shutting up about 20 acres for standing hay for dry cows.”

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

Average farm cover        2,199kg DM/ha

Pre-grazing cover            2,850kg DM/ha

Demand                         77.7kg DM with cows eating 14kg grass

Growth                           73.3kg DM/ha this week

Concentrate feed level     4kg/cow

Milk yield                        26 litres/cow


“Things have generally gone well so far this season after the slow start,” says Ben. “Cows have been grazing well, although we are now on the fourth round on most paddocks, so I'm currently pre mowing to clear up rejection patches.

“We've had about an inch of rain in the last fortnight, which was well needed as things were starting to look very dry. It's given the silage grass a final perk up, which was cut yesterday, 19 May, to pick up today. Maize went in on 28 April and is up and away. 

“Some paddocks will come back from silage into the grazing round, in order to lengthen rotation and, thus, reduce growth rate demand. That’s especially important for us now, knowing that our growth rate will start to drop now as things burn off.”

George Brown is herd manager at Cairnhead Farm in Ainstable, Cumbria. The herd of 390 spring calving cows are mostly New Zealand Friesian, with some Jersey crosses, yielding 490kg MS (5,500 - 6,000l) per year. At an elevation of about 182.8m (600ft.), the milking platform is 120ha and there are a further 60ha used for youngstock and silage ground.

Average farm cover        2,180kg DM/ha

Pre-grazing cover             2,700kg DM/ha

Demand                          70kg DM/day

Growth                            55kg DM/ha last week

Concentrate feed level       2.5kg/cow

Milk yield                          Peaked at 28.5 litres/cow

“We’ve had some really cold conditions this spring and things have been a bit stop and start,” says George. “We had some really hard frost two to three weeks ago, that really hammered the paddocks, they did nothing for a week or two.

“You know what it’s like, when the sun is out you feel grass growth is fine and everything is going ok, but when it’s cold and rainy you think growth has really slowed down. I think that can’t help but be reflected in the grass growths I assess.

“About 35% of the platform has been shut up for silage, which we plan to cut at the beginning of June, and that’s actually no later than in other years.

“We tend to hammer the first grazing round, then give the cows a bit more flexibility in the second and third, leaving residuals of about 1,700kg DM/ha. We have some big cows producing high yields and I need them to look after themselves as we head towards mating. What we’ll do is go in before the fourth round and tidy everything up with the mower before the cows, to get everything back on track, and set up the quality for the rest of the season.”