Farmer technical comment - Jill Bathgate and Tony Renwick

Published 24 April 15

This week, one of the most southerly and one of the most northerly farmer contributors explain how the recent spell of good weather affected them.

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

Average farm cover        2057kg DM/ha

Pre graze cover              2600 – 2700kg

Grass growth                  45kg

3.5kg cake as growth not quick enough yet.

“We started the season on 10 February, staying out for 10 days then back in for 10 days,” says Tony. “We've been out since and have had really dry conditions, with cows grazing easily down to 1,500kg DM/ha. Grass growth rates are slow and magic day has not arrived yet. 

“The first grazing round gets the grass growing and, as soon as we hit the second round, the cows were out full-time. We reduced the dairy cake by 1.75kg/cow and 2kg of wheat feed and milk lifted 1.75 litres/cow/day.  

“Fertiliser has gone on behind the cows with 27 units N and sulphur. So far half the milking platform has been fertilised. We really need rain as, so far, in April we have had 7ml.

“Slurry was put on the maize ground in ideal conditions, as we speak, the land has been sumo'd and we’re drilling tomorrow.  The soil temperature in East Sussex is 14 degrees.”

 

Jill Bathgate milks 150 Holstein Friesian cows near Gorebridge in Mid Lothian. She farms 260ha, with 90ha down to grass and 16ha to wholecrop.

Average farm cover        just over 2,000kg DM/ha

Grass growth                 52kg

4 – 5kg cake for cows outside

 

“With the cold conditions, we had a very slow start to the season and the cows have only been out for about a fortnight,” explains Jill. “Cows went out overnight for the first time last Saturday, 18 April. This was even though we didn’t have a huge amount of grass, but we needed to grab every opportunity to grazing, as we’re still on the first round and I need to round before the grass really takes off.

“From last year’s experience, we learnt how important it is to stay ahead of the grass, so that’s been our aim so far this year. We had to go in with low covers, which paid off and growth has just taken off this week.

“Cows are looking and milking well on the grass. Grazing conditions have been excellent and in fact we could do with a little bit of rain, but not too much. We’re hoping for a dry season as we’ve not been able to afford to improve the infrastructure this year.

“We still have 30 higher yielding cows in the shed. I can see a low pressure approaching and think if they go out they’ll just be coming back in again soon. I’m trying to minimise disruption to these cows and will wait for the next weather window before they go out.”