Season overview part 2

Published 20 November 15

Two more of our farmer contributors to Forage for Knowledge provide an overview of their seasons and talk about 2015, which turned out to be a year of contrasts.

Tony Renwick has 300 autumn calving crossbred cows on a paddock grazing self-feed system. He has a 71ha grazing platform, with 60ha of maize, and aims for high-quality milk from high-quality healthy cows.

“It’s been a very good grazing season for us autumn calvers,” says Tony. “Turnout was on 10 February, with grazing virtually continuous in the early part of the season. Grass quality was very good and cows performed well.

“By mid-May we went once-a-day milking (OAD), with grass growth slowing due to dry weather. Cows were all dried off when the grass really slowed down in late June. They were then sent to stored grass on the rented land. This left six weeks recovery for the milking platform, ready for calved cows to exploit the fresh grass.

“Tracks have always been an issue here, until this summer where we put astro turf over slippery chalk tracks, which seems to be working a treat.

“Going forward, better use of grass is going to be crucial. We’ll aim to turn out early because, since cows have come in, grass has taken off. The very mild, damp autumn has really pushed up the covers.

Christmas greetings to all and let’s hope for a better 2016.” 


John Owen, at Gelli Aur College, has 250 spring calving crossbreds, yielding 5,200 litres and grazing 88ha with some of the grass silage needed brought in. This herd is run alongside a further 250-cow autumn calving herd producing 6,500 litres.

“What a contrasting year!” says John. “No one would have predicted the current financial state of the industry. However, we have been blessed with a very good grass growing year and, at Gelli Aur, we have grown 13.5 Tonnes DM to date.

“To mitigate the very low milk price we have reduced the concentrate input to both our herds but have not seen the expected reduced output in the spring calving herd. This does show the potential of good quality grazed grass. 

“However, the autumn calving herd has, as a consequence of reduced concentrate input, not fared as well and cows have produced less milk than usual. More can be done to improve the quality of the silage that we make, to maximise the potential milk from forage that could be achieved from conserved forage, as well as grazed grass. Work for the future I think!”