GrassCheckGB participant, Andrew Brewer, hopes to graze his 600 dairy cows for 365 days of the year to maximise the use of grass on his coastal Cornish farm.
While much of the dairy farming community is preparing to bring (or has brought) cows in for the winter, Andrew Brewer, who farms at Ennis Barton near Newquay in Cornwall, is setting up his next grazing round.
With the aim of grazing his 600 autumn calvers for 365 days a year, his November round will involve feeding roughly 100th of the grazing platform every day.
Grazing some 190 hectares (470 acres) in total, this means 1.9ha (4.7ac) will be allocated to the herd each day. The opening covers will be roughly 3,000kg dry matter per hectare; they will be grazed down to 1,500kg DM/ha, supplying each cow with just under 5kg of dry matter intake (DMI) per day.
“We reckon on grazed grass supplying roughly 30 per cent of their daily DMI at this time of year,” says Mr Brewer. “Just under two hectares feeds all 600 head, but they will consume it in around three hours.”
This means the farm operates a system of ‘on-off’ grazing through the winter, usually turning cows out after morning milking and bringing them in around lunchtime. They will then self-feed grass silage and receive a smattering of concentrates in the parlour, bringing the total DMI to an average 17kg per head per day.
The upshot is that the herd of New Zealand Friesians x Jerseys yields around 5,500kg at 4.7 per cent fat and 3.6 per cent protein (305 days). This is achieved from a ration comprising a simple combination of grazed and conserved grass and just 700kg concentrates per cow per year.
The grazing round through winter will last for 100 days, meaning the cows will have returned to their early November paddock by 10 February.
During that time, they will also have grazed a small field of fodder beet, which will be sufficient to keep grazing going through the winter months.
“This helps keep the cows full during the winter, and if they are full, they will be happy,” he says.
Good grazing management throughout the whole season ensures the cows at Ennis Barton are entering winter in good condition, which is critical to their ongoing success as insemination of the tight block-calving herd also takes place.
“They are in far better condition now than they were last autumn as they’ve had a great summer, a drier autumn, and autumn grass utilisation has been better than last year,” he says.
“This is critical as we start breeding, which is probably the most important three-week period of the year,” he says. “We want the cows to be in optimum condition, with minimal lameness and other problems and body condition scores of 2.75 to 3.
“I’m happy they are meeting this BCS target, with very few cows outside that range,” he says, remarking that the target dates for calving are a nine-we