Salvaging a Difficult Spring

The two graphs below depict how much grass was available for grazing when this 8,000 litre split block calved herd turned out to grass on the 16th April 2018, and where it was three weeks later on the 7th May. Any cover over 3,200kgs is very difficult to get grazed down to 1,700kgs. This herd achieved this with the following results this May vs May 2017.

How was this achieved?

  • Herd split spring/autumn only while at grass. Auto-shedding gate segregated after milking
  • 3 Kg/DM silage/Hd fed to Spring calvers (averaging 35L/day) and given access to first feed in each paddock.
  • Autumn group cleared up behind Springs
  • Silage also fed as stocking rate is 6 cows/Ha which grass growth rates wouldn’t support a grass only diet.
  • Post grazing covers of 1,700kg as per graph 2, ensuring excellent quality re-growths.
  • Some youngstock used in April to graze out some of paddocks rather than cut for silage, keeping costs down and giving more flexibility.
  • A light cut of silage bales taken off 30% of grazing area in mid April.

The bigger benefit is that this grazing area is now set up to produce quality grazing with no silage required in June. The autumn calvers drying off will reduce the stocking rate. Cows are producing the same milk at end of May 2018 as 2017 with 20 less in milk and butterfats are 0.21% higher and protein similar to 2017.

Measuring grass weekly, using and interpreting the data has ensured the ideal grazing wedge at the end of May has been achieved from a disastrous Spring. Out of adversity comes opportunity. It is never too late in the season to start measuring grass and taking control of your most valuable and cheapest resource.

In May alone this farmer’s milk from forage has increased by 13% over a whole year, this would equate to 450L extra from forage per cow.

If two-thirds of the May benefit is achieved each month for the rest of the year this would result in a £40K pa or 2.25ppl extra profit for this herd.

With split block calved herds, my FCG colleague Wes Habershon advised in February to invest in an auto shedding gate to split herd automatically after milking so that specific cows could be fed differently but still run as one herd at milking time and at grass. He highlighted that there were grants available for this (currently closed but another application window will be available later in year).

Lots of farmers are saying that they want to increase milk from forage. Don’t blame the adverse spring conditions for procrastinating and not making this happen. Do you have a plan and are you on target to achieve it?

Contact Gerard today at  or your local FCG office to put an increase in milk from forage per cow plan in place and make it happen!



Posted in Arable & Crops, Business Management, Dairy & Forage, Sherborne.