Farmer comment -Ben Jacobs

Ben Jacobs is herd manager at Splattenridden, where he milks 330 cows on an autumn block calving system. The 161.8ha (400 acres) are on light soil, 122m (400ft) above sea level with both north and south Cornish coast visible from the farm.

About 100 replacement heifers are reared outside and cows are self-feed maize and grass silage. Target turn-out date is early February and the dairy is part of a mixed farm growing potatoes and vegetables. 

Average farm cover        2,169kg DM/ha

Pre grazing cover            2,650–2,800kg DM/ha

Grass growth                  65kg DM/ha

Demand                         48kg DM/ha

Concentrate                    0

Maize silage                   2kg/cow

 

“This year, the cows went out for the first time on 25 January, six days earlier than our previous best,” says Ben. “Weather conditions were great, allowing them to hit the desired residual of 1,500kg/DM, setting us up for the rest of the grazing season well. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, grass growth took off slowly and we didn’t see magic day until two weeks later than expected. The spring rotation planner was a great tool and with it we made sure we didn’t run out of grass.

“In recent weeks, the grass made up for its slow start, allowing us to drop 20ha out of the platform to cut, alongside our dedicated silage ground we have a few miles away. The decision was made to stop feeding concentrates at the end of April and replace this with maize silage instead. With grass growth being greater than demand at the moment, we still decided to feed the cows as we felt that condition is about half a score lower than where we want it to be at this time of year in the run-up to drying off.

"Next week we will close up the first paddock for standing hay for the cows to calve on. This is something we have done for the last six years and seems to work really well for us. Moving forward, it’s going to be important for us to look at every input cost closely and decide if it’s a necessity or a luxury. So I guess a new loader tractor is out of the question,” concludes Ben.