Demo farm event

Published 4 July 14

Spring 2014 has been exceptional for producing milk from grazed grass, but there is still much more to do to improve grass growth and utilisation. That was the key message delivered to farmers at the DairyCo/BGS demonstration farm, at Crathorne Estates, Yorkshire on 26 June. 

Joe Dugdale, farm partner, opened the meeting by advising that in April and May 2014 the herd used around 120 tonnes less parlour concentrate, compared to the same months in 2013, while producing 17,000 litres more milk than the previous year. The 400 autumn calving dairy-unit operates on a 123 hectare grazing platform which is on heavy clay soils.

The objective of the dairy unit on the estate is to maximise milk from grazed grass. Independent consultant Charlie Morgan, took visitors through the negative impacts of soil compaction on grass growth and utilisation, and went on to discuss using spiking, sward lifting, mole ploughing and ploughing to remediate the issues. The message was to dig inspection pits to understand the problems on your own farm and use the right techniques and machinery to match on farm conditions.

Dr Debbie McConnell, DairyCo research manager, talked about the results, so far, from experiments underway at SRUCs Crichton Royal Farm, as part of DairyCo’s Grass, Forage and Soil Research Partnership. These show reduction in first cut yields of between 10 and 20% from soil compaction caused by trampling and wheeling, and are beginning to show the benefits of remediations like sward lifting.

Andrew Manfield, a local arable farmer, shared his experience of the benefits of controlled traffic farming techniques that are designed to minimise soil compaction from machinery operations.  The visitors entered into a lively discussion of how these might be applied to grassland situations and concluded that this should be an area for researchers to focus on in the near future.

Local DairyCo Extension Officer, Tony Hoile, summed up, “This was a very useful session and showed the power of knowledge exchange, where farmers can see the impact of research and feed back their needs directly to the researchers. That’s what these BGS/DairyCo demonstration farms are all about.”

The full handout of the day is available on the DairyCo website.