Grassland management a key focus at French exchange to UK
Placing improving grassland management on the top of the agenda at Brimstone Farm, Wiltshire, is starting to pay dividends with milk from forage forecasted to increase by 699 litres/cow from 2018.
Becci Berry, in a family partnership, manages the 365ha joint dairy and arable venture at Brimstone Farm and over the last 18 months has been focusing on maximising milk from home-grown forage from their 180 all year round calving herd which currently gives 9,134 litres/cow/year.
Becci explains: “We are starting to see the focus on grassland paying off with grassland management now a big component of our day-to-day management of the farm. Our milk from forage in 2017 was 3,111 litres/cow/year and we are forecasting this to increase to 3,810 litres/cow/year by the end of 2018.”
A recent EuroDairy French exchange visit saw French dairy farmers visiting Brimstone Farm to learn and discuss efficient grassland management and maximising the use of home-grown forages.
The focus on improving grass utilisation means they have reduced their purchased feed cost per litre from 6.5ppl to 4.73ppl. “Constantly working towards using more of the grass we have grown through the grazing season provides a drive to achieve the desirable pre-grazing covers of 2,700 – 3,000 kg DM/ha and post-grazing residuals of 1500kg DM/ha. If we can achieve this it helps promote great grass quality, even in the mid-season” Becci explained.
During the exchange visit, Becci explained to French farmers the decision to choose a multi-cut silage system both last year and this year. “The quality of the silage over the winter housing period last year proved itself, so we are doing the same this year. Although, it can be a little bit irritating that the first cut does not take very long to harvest and the clamp looks empty, it is more than worth it for the high quality!”
Like many others, the wet spring played havoc with how much Nitrogen they could apply to the silage fields this year, but Nitrogen and Sulphur was applied and the first cut was looking promising, and the second cut was harvested at the beginning of June.
“We are aiming to improve our grassland management further going forwards and will continue to measure weekly with the plate meter and AgriNet to evaluate our supply and demand through the grazing season.”
The main holding farm is National Trust owned and has been run by the Berry family since the 1950’s, where the dairy herd has grown from 20 to 180 cows. Over the past 10 years, the herd has moved away from pure-bred British Friesian and Holstein to cows being crossbred with Scandinavian Reds, Montbeliarde and Brown Swiss Bulls to try and rectify health and fertility issues. Commenting on this, Becci said “The main reasons for cross breeding were stamina, fertility and to maintain milk production.”