Steve Brandon wins National Grassland Management Competition

Steve Brandon wins National Grassland Management Competition

Friday, September 10, 2010

BGS National Grassland Management Competition 2010


This year's winner of the BGS National Grassland Management Competition sponsored by DLF-Trifolium and GrowHow is Steve Brandon who farms at Hopton, Stafford.


Steve Brandon accepts his trophy as the winner, from the three national judges.
From left: Tim Kerridge, Lesley Brandon, Steve Brandon, Elaine Jewkes and Richard Ratcliffe.


Steve was selected from a final three in the competition by the national judges, Richard Ratcliffe (head judge and Cheshire farmer), Tim Kerridge of DLF-Trifolium and Elaine Jewkes of GrowHow, having competed against regional winners from all seven BGS regions. More than 30 local grassland societies competed for the title this year.

Grass is treated as a valuable commodity, by Steve who measures grass every week from February to early December.

He then uses a computer program to work out average farm cover, growth rates and to budget grass allocation for his 420-cow crossbred herd of half Friesians. This sees him feed just 515kg of concentrate for a 6070-litre yield.

Concentrate is fed to a maximum of 3-4kg in spring and stops in mid-April, unless the weather sees cows kept inside for short periods. It is usually reintroduced in mid-September.

By measuring grass, Steve can identify poorly performing grass fields for reseeding the following spring if needed. "We find a spring reseed is the best for our farm, grass is in surplus in April-May time and small areas can be taken out without compromising cow feeding."

Annual silage requirements are 4-5t of fresh weight a cow, which gives the farm ample supplies for the winter, with some cows outwintered on forage crops and a mid-February turnout.


The runners up were:

Philip Feeney, Cheshire, representing Northern region:

Philip aims to produce 6000 litres of milk a cow with 75% coming from grazed grass and silage, using a 12 week spring block-calving system for the 340 cow herd. The 295ha (728 acre) farm has been organic since 2002.

When it comes to optimising use of grazing Philip says: "The key for us is knowing how much we are growing and managing rotation lengths to optimise grass growth".

He tries to allocate 16 to 18 kg of dry matter a cow a day and keep the grass at 12ME and 18% protein over as much of the grazing season as possible.

Costings show the mainly New Zealand Friesian herd, with some Jersey crosses, is achieving 6000 litres a cow with 3509 litres from grazed grass and 4280 litres from forage in total. Philip's business objectives are to run a simple, profitable and enjoyable dairy business.


Phillip Feeney accepting his certificate as runner-up in the NGMC 2010

Reggie Lilburn, County Down, representing Northern Ireland:

Reggie believes grazed grass is the most sustainable way to feed his 200 pedigree Holstein cows and is committed to achieve the technical efficiency goals of producing 12-13t of forage dry matter/ha with 80% utilisation.

The farms network of cow tracks and multiple gateways in each paddock allows for good flexibility in grazing management. Early in the grazing season the 24 paddocks are strip grazed. Then, from June, grass is topped after every grazing to keep quality high.

Winter wheat and barley is used as a break crop to allow reseeding after seven years in grass to reduce excessive potash levels. Clover is a key ingredient in all swards. Reggie also grows 20ha (50 acres) of forage maize under plastic.

More than half the annual 2.6t of concentrate fed a cow is home-grown, with cows averaging 8313 litres at a stocking rate of 2.23 cows/ha.


Reggie Lilburn accepting his certificate as runner-up in the NGMC 2010 from head judge Richard Ratcliffe





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