The central policy on this farm is that grass is for grazing, silage is made from grass surplus to the grazing requirement and grass in September should be of the same quality as grass in April or May.
All fields at Whiteleas are in permanent pasture. The paddocks vary in size from 2-8 acres. All fields are sown with perennial ryegrass, to give a good quality, high producing sward. When the farm was bought in 1975, 12 acres of land were reseeded with the perennial ryegrass variety “Cropper”. In 1977, 15 acres were reseeded with “Melle/Vigour” and in 1980 another 17 acres were reseeded with the same mix. The rest of the land was laid down prior to the farm being bought in 1975. Since then, no fields have been reseeded, as they are still highly productive
Late September grass 2015
A very sophisticated feed budget plan is practised on this farm. In peak grass growing months, the farm is walked once or twice a week to check on growth rates and paddock recoveries to ascertain the date at which we return to the first paddock in the cycle. The cows are strip grazed and given fresh grass after each milking. This gives a continuous supply of high quality grass. In the spring, grazing starts ~20th of February and the first rotation has to last to ~15th April on average. In a good year, the first paddock is ready to be grazed on the 5th of April and in years of poor growth this can move out to the 25th of April. To achieve this turnout date nitrogen is applied in early January (134kg urea/ha = 61.7kg N/ha). The system is totally flexible and paddocks are moved in and out of the grazing area so that the cows go into a paddock with from 3200-3300kg DM/ha total cover as measured by a pasture plate meter. The paddock is left with a cover of ~1500kg DM/ha. From experience, the farmer knows by “eyeballing”, the correct covers to move in and out of paddocks without measurement. Once a year, the covers are checked with the plate meter to make sure that the visual DM allocation is correct for the milk production at that particular time. An alternate cutting and grazing system is practised so that there is after grass available from the 1st week of July.
Flexibility is the key to the grazing system on this farm. This means that cows can be given more or less grass as the growing season continues-even at the expense of not closing up paddocks for 1st cut silage by the end of April.Concentrates are used in varying levels each year depending on grass growth rate and feed supply. Amounts used have ranged from 40kg-600kg/cow/yr. On average the concentrate input in the spring is ~200kg/cow. To lengthen rotation length in times of poor growth (late spring/mid summer drought/extending the autumn rotation) citrus pulp is added to the diet at a rate of 5kg/hd/day rather than using silage. Citrus pulp is used, as the cows will graze out the paddocks better with a cheap concentrate rather than a bulky feed such as silage. From mid-summer, the rotation length is gradually lengthened as the aftermaths of 1st and 2nd cut silage come into the grazing system and by mid-September the grazing cycle is 36 days. Again at this time of year if growth rates had slowed down the grazing cycle again would be lengthened with the use of citrus pulp. The cows are kept out until between the 1st and 8th of December. By mid-November the grass would have to be supplemented with silage so as to maintain rotation length and also to keep fresh grass in the cows diet from as long as possible (helps maintain protein %).
The tonnage of silage cut per year is not accurately known, but the number of trailer loads of grass is recorded from each paddock. In 2005, 310 loads of silage were cut giving on average 5 ton of settled silage (fresh weight). This equates to somewhere between 1400 and 1700 tonnes of silage cut per year. In mid October, in-calf heifers are moved to silage feeding plus 2-2 ½ kg citrus pulp so as to leave the more grass for the cows. In December, the weanlings, which get concentrates from mid-September, are moved to rented land, where grass is banked up from mid-August for the winter. The weanlings receive ~460kg of concentrates each from mid-September to the end of March. In September the weanlings are fed citrus pulp, once moved to the rented land the quality of the ration is improved by giving them a lose ration consisting of barley, citrus, maize gluten and soya (14-15% protein ration). The weanlings are strip grazed and moved every day so as to prevent any major poaching damage. The biggest problem with poaching occur in late February and March due to higher levels of rainfall. This system does compare to the Moorepark blueprint as it is a dynamic interactive system, even more so as it is on a whole farm basis.
Phosphorus and Potassium are applied as needed, as determined by soil testing, which is carried out every 3-5 years. Sulphur is generally applied in the April-May period and the June-July period. In 2005, there was 21400 kg N, 1252 kg P and 4904 kg K spread over the 67.95 ha of land farmed. This gives a rate of 314.9 kg N/ha for 2005, along with 18.42 kg P/ha and 72.17 kg K/ha. These high levels are spread in order to keep an adequate supply of grass ahead of the cows.