2010 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup winner Mike King from Gloucestershire updates British Dairying on the latest farm developments since his last article in October 2011.
Time and things have certainly moved on since Chris and I last wrote a Gold Cup comment, it was many years ago now and many standout dairy farm businesses have won the Gold Cup since. Including the current winner Simon Bugler and family, who certainly showed us at the farm open day why they are the current winners of the RABDF/NMR Gold Cup.
Back on the farm we have continued to grow the business while at the same time trying not to lose sight of the areas that are key to running a successful dairy unit. This has been challenging on occasions but on the whole we are both excited by what the future holds for us in dairying.
Back in October 2012 we opened our new dairy unit at Laddenside Farm where we are currently milking 240 cows. This will be increasing to 440 cows in November as we are in the process of building a new 200-cow, sand cubicle shed. With a further 100-cow building due next year to house a dedicated heifer group, while Two Pools Farm will continue to house the dry stock for both units and the low yielding group.
The decision to grow Laddenside Farm was an easy one, with a parlour capable of milking 800 cows three times a day and a new slurry lagoon already in place, this along with the fact that we have managed to buy 50 acres of land adjoining Laddenside that used to be part of the farm under a previous owner.
In the spring of 2016 we, and a number of other interested dairy producers from the South West, visited several dairy farms in Brittany with our nutritionist James Husband of EVBC to look at why the French had successfully managed to lower production costs using zero grazing for up to 280 days a year. We learnt much but the main take home message was how we can all learn from one another and especially our intensive based system which would benefit from the quality of grassland management the grazing herds have to attain to be successful, that could also be applied to our system for the benefit of zero grazing.
So in April 2016 after the purchase of a forage wagon we started zero grazing, initially we fed 30kg of zero graze on top of the base diet with maize as the only conserved forage to all of the milking groups. This was then reduced to just the low and heifer groups as grass quality decreased.
We also undertook a large reseeding programme using high sugar perennials and with a number of the fields planted to straight IRG for early and late season cutting. This has given us the right grass profile for this year and allowed us to cut from March onwards while aiming for the ideal window of 2,800 to 3,300kg per hectare for zero grazing, with anything to far on being taken for silage in conjunction with one of the timed cuts or made into baled silage. Along with weekly measuring of the grass on farm and policy of regular fertiliser applications and topping of the youngstock grazing, we have been able to grow more DM kg/ha and lower production costs as a result.
Developments at RABDF
Moving on from the events on the farm, to my involvement with the RABDF and the changes and exciting developments that have been taking place to better serve British dairy farmers.
Following on from RABDF’s relaunch earlier this year we have been working hard to ensure the organisation is delivering on its new manifesto and achieving its objectives.
As part of our work to create a profitable dairy sector by influencing and empowering change we have announced several new initiatives including a new conference.
The inaugural Business and Policy Conference ‘Scoping the Future’ will take place in London on October 18. Featuring high profile speakers the day is aimed at informing the whole supply chain on the potential effects facing the UK dairy industry in light of Brexit.
Chaired by Lord Curry and held in conjunction with The Trehane Trust, presentations will include the key findings of Trehane Fellowship recipient Mike Houghton of Andersons, who has been researching future options and opportunities for the sector at home and abroad. The Policy Group’s Simon Ward and independent industry commentator Chris Walkland will speak on market access and future trends respectively.
The afternoon will include a discussion on access to overseas labour led by the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group chairman. This will be followed by The University of Bristol’s Kristen Reyher talking about strategies to help the dairy industry reduce antibiotic use.
Sourcing overseas labour in a post Brexit UK is a concern not only for dairying but the whole agriculture sector. With this in mind RABDF have been conducting further research to enable us to influence Government on behalf of the industry and our members. Watch out for an announcement surrounding these developments later this month.
Finalist judging for this year’s RABDF/NMR Gold Cup is scheduled to take place in September. We have a diverse range of farms this time which is a result of us widening the parameters to include the whole range of dairying systems.
For details on all RABDF activities and to book tickets for the conference, visit www.rabdf.co.uk or call 02476 639 317
Reprinted from the September 2017 edition of British Dairying. To see the original article please visit the British Dairying website.