Somerset Grassland Society Chairman’s Farm Walk 2016

Somerset Grassland Society Chairman’s Farm Walk 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Somerset Grassland Society have a great tradition of the chairman opening their farm for the group each summer. This year that duty fell to Rachel Horler, who kindly hosted a walk with her husband Joe at their holding, Maundrils Farm, West Huntspill.

The walk took place on Wednesday 13th July and was well attended by Somerset Grassland Society members and others, including Charlotte Evans, Technical Project Manager at BGS.

The 78-hectare dairy holding has been managed organically since 2,000 and land is utilised by a mixture of leys with a range of small – medium white clovers for grazing, red clover cutting leys, rich herbal leys, undersown spring barley for wholecrop and permanent pastures, including some SSSI land.

“We need to produce more home grown forage with a consistent high quality, and as acreage is a limiting factor, we need to optimise output from the area suited to growing crops and forages”.  

 

During the walk Rachel and Joe explained how becoming involved with research trials led by Aberystwyth University has helped them experiment with different species in the herbal mixes, understanding the properties that they bring such as rooting structure and seasonality as well as nutritional attributes such as higher protein. On being organic they commented that there are good networks of knowledge transfer set-up between farmers, but technical information is not always available.

Parallel to the cropping, Rachel and Joe have made changes to their livestock. Following a low-input ethos they’ve decided to move the currently part Jersey part Holstein Frisian herd over to entirely Jersey sired progeny. Rachel highlighted that whilst this choice is also influenced by the fact that they have a passion for the Jersey breed, they also believe it will lead to an increase in milk from forage, which currently stands at around 5,000 litres per cow (from a total 7,800 litres). Demonstrating this, Rachel and Joe have been meticulous in keeping milk records from the pedigree Jersey herd separately, which consistently show higher yield from forage as well as other attributes such as higher butterfat constituents.

Other points of interest included discussion on the methods of weed control used on this organic holding, and the influence of external factors such as weather and the use of contractors on that, as well as seeing the open-air manure composting that has been implemented on the farm for a number of years, the benefits of which include reducing the volume of material needing storage and spreading whilst still delivering vital nutrients and humus back to the cutting ground.

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