“Our system is based around feeding a consistent diet from the start of the transition period right through until cows are confirmed in calf,” Jon explains. “We want to avoid any changes which might upset the rumen and affect overall performance. So we need a maize variety that not only yields well but also gives a flexible harvest window, because we are right on the coast which is a far from ideal growing area.”
The cows are predominantly Holsteins but they have been cross bred with Norwegian Reds, Flekvieh and some Montbeliardes. Calving is in a tight 12 week block starting in early September with heifers calving at the start of the block.
“Cows are housed three weeks pre-calving and stay housed until the spring. Turning fresh calvers out to grass would make managing the diet and intakes a real challenge, potentially compromising peak yields and fertility. We find it is much more effective to house them pre-calving, get them settled on the diet and then keep everything as consistent as possible.”
The cows are TMR fed with the diet put out once a day but pushed up regularly. The diet normally comprises 60% maize silage, 40% grass silage, chopped straw, fodder beet, Home and Dry treated home grown barley, a 25% protein blend, fat, minerals and chopped straw. In addition, cows will be fed 3-4kg/day of dairy cake in the parlour.
Cows will be turned out by day in February and the parlour cake will be changed to a 16% HDF. They will be fed a buffer incorporating maize until a grazing wedge is established in April. The feeder wagon is then turned off until August.
“Block calving means we can make full use of grazing as cows are mostly in calf by the time they go out. It has also allowed us to reduce maize acreage.
“Previously we would grow 110 acres for 220 cows, but can now produce enough for the 300 cows from 90 acres. However, we need to ensure the best possible quality performance from the smaller maize area so variety choice is key.”
“We look to balance a number of criteria when deciding on a variety,” Alan Moore explains. “Given the location we need to choose an early variety, especially as the aim is to get a grass reseed or cereals in after maize. We also want a flexible harvest window so we can get it off in good conditions.
“As far as feed value is concern, we want a high yielding variety with good starch content. Maize is a feed and the quality of the feed we can produce is essential. To grow an early variety you used to have to be prepared to sacrifice some yield and starch, but this is not the case now.
“Two years ago we tried Glory as it meets all our criteria, being maturity class 10 and scoring 7.5 for early vigour, combined with high starch content and excellent fibre digestibility. It is the top ranked variety for starch yield and produces high dry matter yields. It is 4th highest on the BSPB/NIAB List for ME yield. It has performed so well, we have moved away from growing a mix of varieties to growing just the one.”
While some of the 90 acres were sown on 10th May, the majority went in on 25th and 26th May after first cut had been taken. Jon says the sowing date had little impact on harvest date with some late sown fields ready first. He believes field conditions, particularly shelter in his case, have far more influence on crop maturity.
Harvest this year was staggered as Jon was running low on maize carried over from 2014 and was going to be short for fresh calved and transition cows. Ten acres was harvested on 1st October, yielding around 150 tonnes at 31%DM, 10.8ME and 34.7% starch.
“The harvest window for Glory gave us the opportunity to take some early,” Jon Rogers continues. “We could actually have taken the entire crop at this stage,
but hadn’t finished concreting the clamp. The early harvest allowed us to have sufficient for immediate needs and meant the main harvested block could have at least four weeks in the clamp before being used, which is the minimum we aim for.”
In total the 90 acres yielded 1600 tonnes and Jon is confident he will have around 300 tonnes available to feed next autumn. To help preserve quality and reduce heating the crop is treated with Safesile to limit aerobic spoilage.
“Having grown a quality feed it is important to minimise waste. Even though we feed once a day we are getting virtually zero waste in the troughs and the diet doesn’t heat up during the day.
“We are averaging 27 litres per cow with 4.3% fat and 3.4% protein. Rolling yield per cow is around 8,200 litres which I am happy with from cross-bred cows. Fertility is generally good too, with around a 22% pregnancy rate and a 90% submission rate which I think reflects the system and ensuring a consistent diet with a healthy rumen using quality maize.”