Lydney Park open day

Published 21 September 12

DairyCo extension officer Piers Badnell attended the Lydney Park LIC farm open day this week in Gloucestershire. The day, entitled "Managing change to capture profit", was excellent with a lot of discussion about forage, grazing, fertile cows, budgeting, planning and the use of information to drive profit. Below are some key points:

Background

In 2008 Lydney Park began the move from an all year round calving system to a split autumn and spring block system, and from next year to being fully spring block calving. The ultimate aim is to increase profit by maximising the use of grazing, and breeding the most efficient cow for the system.

The open day covered grassland management and feed budgeting, out wintering on forage crops, breeding the right cow for the system, infrastructure
- fences tracks and water, and examining the financial results.

The day was led by Gavin Green, Farm Manager, Keith Davis, Herd Manager, Tim Thompson Head Herdsman and LIC Farm Consultant Mike Bailey.

Key points from the day

Team work

  • The whole team at Lydney bought into the idea of the system change and understand the goals. Without this no system delivers, and the great progress made demonstrates how well the team works.
  • Feed budgets are set weekly and adhered to!
  • The use of figures and information takes the guess work out of the scenario. The team are always acting on facts.
  • Keith measures the grass with a plate meter every Monday in order to make the week's decisions.
  • Previously they had measured on Wednesday and discussed the results on Thursday. Then the temptation was to not make any changes until after the weekend, so they were nearly a week out of date. Now they measure on Monday and act on Tuesday!
     

Feeding

  • Feeding 16kg of DM/cow/day of forage through the lactation.
  • When adequate grazing is present this is totally grazed grass. Cows are only supplemented with silage when grazing supply is outstripped by demand.  For example the team has started feeding 3kg DM grass silage/cow/day now, in order to help buildgrass covers and allow grazing until December.  

Infrastructure

  • Key to grazing at Lydney Park is infrastructure - tracks fencing and water.
  • See DairyCo's track construction video 
  • A good quote from the day was about the concern among some farmers at the cost of tracks. £20,000 will get you half a building or a diet feeder but it will also get you 1-2 km of tracks, which will enable grazing for 10 months of the year.
  • The key is to get the tracks in, spend what you can afford, and build up gradually.
  • Lydney Park is heavy land, silts and clay, as it is on the floodplain of the Severn estuary. But even though the farm had 200% of normal rainfall this summer, and part of the farm was under water all season, the tracks and good planning meant the cows did not have to come in at all.


Measure and monitor

  • Key to success is entering the covers at the correct level of 2800kg of DM/ha, but stocking hard and using grazing pressure to achieve 1500 kg DM/ha residuals. This produces the quality and quantity of grazing.
  • The grazing block was stocked at 3.7cows ha with 13t of DM/ha grown.
  • Yield range amongst paddocks was 8-17t of DM/ha.
  • Each year the lower yielding fields are checked to see why performance is below the average.
  • Soil structure, pH, P&K etc are checked and corrected if necessary. If these are all ok then the field is reseeded.  
  • High quality feed will lead to a good quantity of feed which, in turn, leads to cows in good condition.


Genetics

  • The herd was switched from high output Holsteins to a grazing system before suitable cows became available and began to breed their own replacements.
  • First NZ Friesian and then Jersey genetics have been used to breed the desired cows and has improved cow fertility over the last four years and continues to do so.

It was an inspiring day with plenty to take on board. Lydney Park is well worth a visit at next year's open day.