Silage, Pre-mowing, Reed Beds and more at the 2015 Winner’s Farm Walk

Silage, Pre-mowing, Reed Beds and more at the 2015 Winner’s Farm Walk

Thursday, September 15, 2016

At the end of August BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year 2015 winner Colin Boggs opened his farm to host the Winner's Farm Walk. Taking place at Clover Hill Farm, about an hour south of Belfast in County Down, the event attracted a crowd of over 150, with many engaging in lively questioning as Colin, who modestly expected 50 -70 attendees, explained his approach to grassland dairying at various stops throughout the farm tour. No doubt the fact that this farm achieves over 80% of its yield from forage, including over 4,000 litres from grazing, was a major draw for many.

Silage Clamp

Colin made first-cut silage this year on 16 April. His first rule of thumb is to cut silage in good weather, calling sunshine ‘the best additive of all’, a rule which even in this summer of intermittent wet allowed him to take a second cut on 23June with additional surpluses being baled throughout the season. DM analysis for his second-cut was 39.1% and ME 11.5%. Slurry and DOP are applied for the first cut, with additional cuts being supplied with 24:6:12 or 24:14:14. This stop demonstrated use of a cover and rubber mats to completely cover the crop, a regime which both aids the exclusion of air for the anaerobic conservation process and enables preservation for longer as a tough yet easily managed seal.

Pre-mowing

Colin practices pre-mowing 24 hours ahead of grazing to keep quality grazing in front of the cows. During the walk he pointed to the benefits he sees such as increased DM intakes and more complete utilisation, including around dung pats. High production from grazing along with (current) 4.23% butterfat and 3.35% protein and a feed rate is 0.08kg per litre are testament to the approach working at Clover Hill.

Reed Beds

At the yard we saw how all of the water from cow tracks, silage clamp and the parlour is collected and diverted into a tank before being channelled to a reed bed system covering 1.2ha (3 acres) which acts as a bio-filter to purify run-off and washings. Later in the tour we came to the reed beds themselves, where Colin explained that despite an initial installation cost of around £15,000 the beds replace the need to spread tanker-loads of dirty water which would otherwise represent an ongoing expense. After about 70 days in the reed bed water passes first into a pond and eventually discharges into the stream.

Other stops made during the farm walk were to see a reseeded ley and the windmill which provides additional income and is seen as part of the farm succession plan. Colin also highlighted the need to plan time for recreation into the farming life, which in his case accounts for the various horse related infrastructure also visible on-farm.

The day was not just highly informative but also enjoyable, helped by the kind weather and the perfect hospitality of the Boggs family, Colin and his parents Frank and Helen and the Ulster Grassland Society whose organisational assistance made the event the success that it was.

BGS also thanks the competitions sponsors DLF and Yara for making the event possible.

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