Profit from grass - 8 June 2010

Published 8 June 10

Dry weather and relatively high temperatures are having an effect on growth rates on some of our 'Profit from grass' farms, with the East Sussex location appearing to have dried out the most.

"This in itself is not a problem on a farm which is well accustomed to this type of weather and although this week's growth rates at this location are only 57 kg DM/ha/day, the dry matter of the grass is correspondingly high," says Piers Badnell, extension officer with DairyCo.

"At 23 per cent, it's the highest DM in the group, which means the sward will be grazed and utilised more efficiently, while good grazing management has also ensured both metabolizable energy (ME) and crude protein (CP) levels have been maintained.

"Round lengths will probably have to increase and more grass be introduced for grazing, although if the rain starts this week, as predicted, the situation could easily change."

Down in North Devon, the picture is a little different, although even here - despite its generally higher rainfall - yields are down on the previous year.

"Chris Falconer, who farms near Bideford, estimates yields are down by 15 per cent compared with last year, which equates to around 0.5 tonnes DM/ha," says Mr Badnell.

"It won't be a problem if he ends the year just half a tonne down, but if the growth doesn't catch up and he ends up, say 15 per cent lower, that will be significant, and represent the loss of 2 tonnes DM/ha.

"One of the implications of the lower yield is the need to remove smaller surpluses more frequently, and this year he has already taken four cuts of silage, compared with just one or two by this time in previous years.

"Taking these small surpluses out as silage is a tool for quality management rather than to provide a bulk of winter feed, as allowing the grass covers to increase would produce more stalk and less leaf, and so pull its quality down," says Mr Badnell.

"But by presenting the grass to the cow at the same growth stage throughout, quality will be maintained, and in fact - because dry matter is higher - milk yields have actually increased.

"As with all of the farms this week, quality is consistently good with MEs around 11.5 to 12.8, although that's what I'd expect from these good grassland farmers.

"The challenge now is to maintain that quality throughout the summer and into September, which is certainly possible with the right grazing management."

Originally produced for Farmers Guardian, June 2010

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