Research in Practice: Demo Farms Update

Research in Practice: Demo Farms Update

Friday, February 13, 2015

Things may have gone quiet events-wise down on our demo farms over the winter, but that’s not to say that nothing’s happening. It won’t be long before we’re inviting you once again to come and see more of our demo results for yourselves at upcoming open events from North Yorkshire to Cornwall throughout 2015.

It was back in early November that we had our last two demo farm events of 2014, on the 5th looking at reducing crude protein content in dairy cow diets and using lucerne as an alternative protein source with the Foote’s in Cornwall, and on the 13th taking the form of a Soil Management Workshop at Corps House Farm, with Crathorne Farms Manager Joe Dugdale and his team.

Here’s an update on what’s been happening the demos since then.

Trink Dairy, the Knowles Family, St Ives, Cornwall                                                                

Out-wintering is one of the themes being looked at on this demo farm in the south-western tip of the mainland. Chris Knowles is currently out-wintering a group of heifers and we’re following the situation in terms of impact on the grassland and animal performance, collecting data on the forage and feeding regime, grassland disturbance and changes in heifer weights. Caving has started in early February meaning Chris won’t get a chance to do much else for a month or so, but look out for an open event on this farm in spring 2015 to discuss the issues raised by the out-wintering demo there.

Chynoweth Farm, the Foote family, Truro, Cornwall                                                             

The 2014 lucerne silage harvests were viewed as a huge success by the family, continuing to thrive in the notably dry conditions of last year’s summer whilst grass yield dipped away and providing them with a higher protein home-grown forage component. They attribute at least some of their falling cost of production and increasing yield from forage figures since 2013 to their inclusion of this ‘new to them’ crop.  James Foote says that ‘the lucerne silage is currently feeding very well and having a positive effect on diet’.  The lucerne ground is currently providing some winter keep for sheep. Meanwhile we’re collecting data relating to the soil nutrient status. This spring the Foote’s will be sowing another 20 acres of lucerne, part of which will help them meet the new greening requirements of CAP, meaning that we can follow the establishment success on some different soil types and discuss best practice in growing lucerne at an event later this year.

Home farm, Newton St Cyres, Devon                                                                                       

Here Adam Reeves and his team are preparing for spring grazing. As they are in an NVZ slurry has been stored over winter, but following the end of the closed period they will resume their regime of slitting and spreading the liquid fraction on the grazing paddocks.

We’ve also been reviewing the results of the 2014 monitoring, which show a slight benefit of 0.2 t/ha from slitting in terms of total growth throughout the whole year with a larger benefit in the autumn period with 1.4 t/ha more produced in the spiked paddock compared to the untreated site.

Throughout 2015 we’ll continue to take grass growth and herbage quality data to build this picture. Look out for events in April and August.

Corps House Farm, Yarm, North Yorkshire                                                                               

At Crathorne things are going well with Joe and his team aiming to turn out on the 24th Feb this year pulling forward 12 days compared to 2015. The field that was sward-lifted as part of the demo project in the autumn is looking dry and anecdotally the results appear positive.

This year they’ll be paying attention to soil conditions in terms of timing their slitting and sward lifting treatments, hoping to avoid the initial check on grass growth that resulted from carrying out the treatments when the soil was too wet previously.

In addition they’re establishing a demo looking at controlled trafficking on grassland, which will be a theme for a later event following silaging.

Look out for events here in June and September.

Thank you to past Demo Farm

We would also like to say a huge thanks to Ray Brown and his family at The Orchards who have been our demo farm in Cheshire over the last two years. Their commitment to the soil and slurry demo work meant that BGS and DairyCo were able to run a number of very popular events there,  We also collected significant evidence that both spiking and sward lifting offer effective treatments of compaction on light-soil grassland and produce an increase in yield. Please see related documents on the BGS website for further information about the findings:



BGS Members BGS is a membership organisation which acts as a communication forum, through events and publications, for the profitable and sustainable use of grass and forage.

Local Societies

BGS Members Use our Local Society directory to locate your nearest societies, information resources and experts on grassland farming and foraging.