Forage Field Wales

Published 8 May 15

Deciding where he wanted his business to go, how it was going to get there, and constantly reviewing actions, are behind the progress Ed Morgan has made at Carreg y Llech Farm, Mold in Flintshire.

The developments at the farm were highlighted at the RABDF/BGS/DairyCo Forage Field Event held at the farm on 23 April 23. Carreg y Llech Farm has made the transition from all-year-round calving to an autumn block calving herd in an attempt to maximise the use of grazed grass when it’s available to them, at an altitude of about 26m (850ft) conditions can be cold and wet in the spring.

“Ed decided he wanted to create a profitable, sustainable dairy business for the future and identified high-quality forage as instrumental in this,” says Piers Badnell, DairyCo technical extension officer. “By moving to autumn calving the herd can utilise it at the right time for the system. Cows graze well in the later spring, when the grass comes, and calve in early September, so they are settled on the winter diet at serving time. Dry cows are grazed on old pastures, and then housed on a dry cow ration to avoid milk fever.

“Great Britain has a great climactic advantage as a forage producing country, as it’s not too hot, cold or moist; maritime weather is perfect for quality forage. Ed identified that, although spring time could be cold and wet at that altitude, the farm still has terrific forage growing potential. He’s ensured access by creating more tracks, with stones quarried from the farm, to optimise access to grazing and, in January, milk from forage was 34%, while the yield increased to 8,223l per cow from 7,950l in 2014.”

Ed aims to capitalise on grazing further in the future. There is an ongoing improvement programme of tracks, the capacity of the water system has been increased by installing bigger troughs and increasing the capacity of water pipes.

The tight grazing block of 42.8ha for 220 Holstein cows means a quality grass sward is important. Careful use of reseeding ensures each hectare performs as well as it can. Ed is also investigating the best reseeding methods for the farm, including ploughing and no-plough methods.

When land, which previously had been used as horse paddocks, became available for grazing, Ed tested the pH and found it poor. Two tonnes of lime were applied before wheat was planted. The crop was crimped and a further two tonnes of lime were applied before grass was reseeded in September 2014. It’s crucial to get the pH right for a successful reseed and it now stands at 6.4 across the area.

The whole farm has been soil tested, enabling Ed to optimise the use of nutrients from slurry and target fertiliser purchases more carefully. Seeking to alleviate soil compaction is also important in maintaining good growth. Most slurry is spread by trailing shoe as part of the farm’s Glastir agreement; this means N is better utilised and sward contamination is reduced.

Keeping a tight autumn calving block is important in this system. Ed serves cows to black and white semen for seven weeks and then moves on to British Blue with an Angus sweeper bull. His aim is to get replacements from the most fertile cows; cows holding to first service, this way breeding fertility into the herd.

For the first three weeks, the heifers are serving to sexed semen, before moving to conventional semen. This is another way Ed pushes for the most fertile animals to produce the herd’s replacements.

Yield from forage has climbed from 900 litres to 3,000 litres/cow, while yield from forage/ha has risen from 2,500 to 9,000 litres. Milk from grazed grass has grown from 700 litres to 2,000 litres, and the business is still evolving.

“Ed and his family have a policy of continually reviewing and assessing what has been done,” says Piers. “Ed works well with his farm advisers and remains open-minded about ideas for the business going forward. The plan is to run a simple system, with a good lifestyle, while retaining cash within the business. The success of this policy can be seen in the investment in a new shed, paid for out of profit.”

Farm Facts

Farm background

Ed Morgan has been back at the family farm since 2005, working alongside his parents. His father started milking cows in 1980 and since then they have increased the herd size. 2011 saw a new shed go up and 2012 a new parlour was put in so that they could increase the herd to 220 cows.

 

Land – Ha/acre

76.9ha (190 acres) – Carreg Y Llech

72.8ha (180 acres) rented – summer grazing and silage land.

 

Rainfall

900mm per year

Sea level

259m (850 ft) above sea level

Soil type

Medium loam.

Whole farm was soil tested – resulted in liming and altering P&K requirements

Number of Cows

220

 

Breed

Holstein

 

Average Production

About 8.500 litres

X 2 milkings per day

Stocking Rate

3.7 LU/ha

 

Replacement Management

Breed own heifers – use RMS on 50% of the heifers.

System

Autumn block calving – start end of August

Extensive system

Housing System

Housed on calving into cubicles.

Parlour

Westphalia 28:28

Feed Ration

 

In parlour feeder

Semi TMR

0.31kg concentrate/litre

Grazing Policy

 

Turn out as early as can – by mid/end April.

Break feed paddocks – fresh break every milking

Mown after they have been grazed.

Forage Crops Grown

6.1ha (15 acre) of maize has been grown in the past

Reseed

As and when it needs doing

Slurry

Trailing shoe

Genetics

Looking for a smaller animal, with a deep body and good fertility.

Calving Policy

Autumn block calving

Milk Buyer

Muller Wiseman – COOP Contract

Staff

 

Ed – Milking, feeding, bedding and tractor work.

Eirian – Milking, feeding and bedding

Mr Morgan – Calves, tractor work

Mrs Morgan – Calves