Brandons’ host BGS farm walk

Brandons’ host BGS farm walk

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Steve and Lesley Brandon hosted 210 visitors to New Buildings Farm near Stafford at the British Grassland Society, National Grassland Management Competition winner's farm walk on June 23rd.

The event and competition are sponsored by GrowHow UK and DLF-Trifolium.

The Brandon's beat off strong competition to win the 2010 title and why was still evident when we visited. Despite the challenging dry conditions of 2011, cows were grazing high quality swards where there was very little rejection and looked in good condition. Steve has been focusing on milk from grazing for 10 years.

The 375 cow herd had calved from early February through to late April and had been grazing full-time from mid-February with some silage fed before milking and cake fed in the parlour. They were achieving 6287 litres/cow at 4.51% butterfat and 3.54% protein (511 kg Milk solids/cow) from just 687 kg/cow (0.11 kg/litre) of concentrate.

As grass growth had improved, silage was gradually reduced to zero, in late March, then cake reduced to zero by mid April.

From then on hope to feed milking cows on grazed grass only diet through to September, when cake is reintroduced in the parlour to extend the grazing season through to late November. Most of the cows would be dry over winter.

The most important aspect of keeping swards in good condition, so high quality grass was always in front of cows, was ensuring they grazed the day's paddock down well for high quality regrowth, said Steve.

To stop grass going to seed (when production would be reduced) and minimise rejection, Steve had been pre-mowing grazing on the day cows would go into it, when he thought necessary.  

Steve also measured grass with a plate-meter on a regular basis from February to December. All the information gathered is put onto a spreadsheet to produce the average farm cover, growth rates and a feed wedge. Silage was made from surplus grass which was mostly fed when cows were housed in winter, he said. The silage requirements and costs of making it were greatly reduced compared with the days before spring-calving and paddock grazing for an extended season, he added.

About 5% of the farm is reseeded each year, with Steve's grass measurements helping identify underperforming fields, and allowing him to introduce modern varieties he selected carefully to suit his farm and grazing policy using the Recommended Grass and Clover List data.

 Farm Facts

  • Total area: 202ha (500 acres)
  • Grass: 196ha (485 acres)
  • Roads, tracks, buildings, etc 6ha (15 acres)
  • 40 acres (16ha) of forage rape x kale sown after cereals on rented arable land to outwinter spring born replacements from end of November to early March
  • Majority heavy clay soils with a small area of peat
  • Average rainfall: 725mm (29")
  • Stocking rate 2.7 cows/ha
  • Fertiliser 180-200 kg N/ha
  • Milk contract is with Joseph Heler Dairies for cheese production.

Stocking

  • 375 cows
  • 142 bulling heifers (born spring 2010)
  • 175 heifer calves (born spring 2011)
  • 5 beef cattle
  • 8 stock bulls (4 Hereford, 4 Ayrshire)

 

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