New research discoveries to be showcased at Norfolk farm

Published 9 October 15

Norfolk dairy farmer Ben Walker is hosting AHDB Dairy’s Eastern Research Day on Thursday October 2015. Join Ben and AHDB Dairy at Hall Farm, Attleborough, Norfolk, NR17 1YG to hear how you can benefit from the latest research on your farm. 

Returning to Hall Farm from university, Ben found the farm in need of drastic changes or the cows would had to be sold as they were producing a lot of milk but not a lot of money. After attending an AHDB Dairy Planning for Profit workshop in 2011, Ben and his father made plans to transition from an 11,000-litre all-year-round housed and calving system to a 9,000-litre autumn block calving with grazing paddock rotation. Their challenge was to reduce costs of production, through increased reliance on grazing.

Ben says: “For us, feed and labour costs are still higher than we would like. It is important that we strive to reduce these to make sure we remain competitive in the future. The research day is a great opportunity to see what research is being funded with our levy and how it can be translated into everyday farm practice. I am looking forward to hear the latest on reducing protein use in the ration and how I can increase forage output per hectare to help bring feed costs down.”

Dairy farmers working together

Local AHDB Dairy extension officer, Shirley Macmillan, explains: “Ben has been involved in an AHDB Dairy ‘Milking it’ business discussion group which acted as a sounding board to bounce ideas off other farmers and provided moral support. We are pleased that Ben and his parents agreed to help spread the word about the research AHDB Dairy is undertaking by hosting the Research Day for us.” 

Since then, 2.2km of water pipes and 1.1km of sleeper tracks have been laid, giving cows access to 48 hectares of grass split into 1.5 hectare paddocks which are separated by electric fencing. The cow breed is also steadily changing from Holstein over to British Friesian. Calving is now in a 12-week block from 1 September to 30 November with cows housed until February in straw yards and grazed for the remainder of the year. Concentrate use has fallen from 4.2t/cow to 2.5t/cow. Milk from forage is steadily increasing and is currently at 3,456 litres per cow, up 520% since July 2011. As a result, he has seen drastic cost savings.

AHDB Dairy’s commitment is to ensure a pipeline of high-quality applied research that will help farmers to build a profitable and sustainable business. This one-day event will give farmers the chance to hear about and discuss emerging findings from the latest research. Trials from both the AHDB Dairy Research Partnerships led by University of Nottingham and SRUC will be showcased from 10:30.

Researchers and experts will discuss the highlights from five key topics:

  • Improving protein efficiency
  • Rearing for the future
  • Controlling Johne’s disease
  • Establishing and growing Lucerne
  • Dealing with dry soils

Contact Jenna Porch on jenna.porch@ahdb.org.uk or call 024 7647 8690 to reserve your place at the AHDB Dairy Research Day.