Archive: Outwintering crops - a farmer's experience

Published 26 September 14

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Tom Blanchard milks 300 cows in Wiltshire and grows about seven hectares of fodder beet. His herd is split between spring and autumn calvers, and the spring calving cows outwinter on the beet.

“We dry the spring calvers off at the beginning of December, when it gets too wet or when we run out of grass, whichever comes first! They then go on to the fodder beat for six weeks and come off three weeks before they are due to calve, which is in the first week of February.

“This is our third year of growing fodder beat and I’m impressed with the sheer volume of high energy feed. If the weather isn’t too bad, the cows will put on condition, and even if it’s horribly wet and cold they still maintain their condition on the beet.

“We put bales in with the beet and the cows probably get about a third of the DM from the silage. It helps if the same person does the allocation as you get an eye for recognising if the cows have left some crop behind or they are ready for the fence to be moved.

“We drill the beet at the beginning of April and, although it does take some management, the crop is sprayed four times, etc. the quality and quantity of the feed more than makes up for it. We then put maize in after the beet, when the cows have already done us a job and left the fertility out there for us.”