Saturday, 18 July 2015

Spreading the good word of Grazing!

Firstly, apologies for such a late blog post. I do try and update once a fortnight. But in my defence it's been a particularly busy month.

Mid summer is a great time to get off our own farms and get out of the daily bubble.

To start off, we've had a great trip to Pembrokeshire to see the in-laws, and to show our four month old daughter the beautiful beaches for the first time. Fortunately she slept most of the four hour journey there, and was in a good mood for the whole trip!

More recently I've been to Ireland, to visit Moorepark for their open day. With a fantastic turnout of over 14000 people, it's fair to say Irish farmers are positive about grassland farming!

Moorepark Open Day 2015

We began the day in groups listening to the first key speakers, outlining the core messages for the day. With the recent removal of EU milk quotas, sustainable expansion was the overriding theme. What struck me was the smaller scale of dairy farms in Ireland. I'd estimate the average "NZ system" grazing farm in the UK milks close to 300 cows. Whereas in Ireland, where the majority are block calving, the average was 60 cows. Expansion plans also seemed modest with one speaker describing the move from 60 to 80 cows in the future. Whilst these numbers are only the national averages, with many larger and even smaller herds, it emphasises a key difference of scale between UK and Irish units.

A typical information board from the day.

The day was really well organised, with a ridiculous amount of information on offer, covering pretty much every aspect of grassland dairying. It left us wondering why the UK couldn't produce similar research?

In truth the variation in farming systems makes the task of the levy funded research body in the UK a real headache. Ireland's advantage is that they only have to cater to a single grass based audience, whereas the UK has to appease everybody from total confinement operators, to extensive block calving. Fortunately for those of us in the latter camp, Ireland is only a ferry ride away!

Just before I sign off, in a previous post I said I'd share the success or failure of my direct drilled reseeds. Well here's the results ....

Drilled reseeds

Unfortunately the picture doesn't tell the whole story. After a month in the ground the seedlings had germinated and emerged on only about half the ground. We decided to redrill at an angle, which worked straight away. My guess is, there was too much of a compressed matt in the top few inches of soil, this smothered the seeds, and those that did come struggled to root in the hard ground. Only when this matt had rotted away enough was the ground ready for the second drilled seeds to establish. What would I do differently? Maybe try and break the ground and matt with a harrow before drilling. We live and learn in farming!

1 comment:

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