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12.08.05
Grassland Challenge Focus Group Looks For Ideas And Inspiration In Dorset

Members of the Mid Cornwall Dairy Focus Group discussing Dave Chaloner's pasture management during the study tourMembers of the Mid Cornwall Dairy Focus Group discussing Dave Chaloner's pasture management during the study tour

Looking for ideas to improve dairy farm profitability and also improve farm life is what the members of the Mid Cornwall Dairy Focus Group were looking for when they travelled to Dorset for two days on a summer study tour.

"The group, which is part of the Grassland Challenge project, visited three different but highly profitable farms," said Victoria Westbrooke, the group's Extension Officer. As a result of the trip, members plan to discuss calving cows outdoors, the amount and timing of nitrogen fertiliser applications, the spread of calving, soil fertility and aerators, feed costs and share-farming at future group meetings. The overall aim of the group is to lift farm profitability and have more time for non-farming activities and family life.

A high producing, 8,232 litres per cow, year-round calving herd owned by Dave Chaloner showed that high pasture utilisation can be combined with concentrates to achieve high farm profitability. The herd was utilising approximately 9.2tDM/ha pasture, 1.5t concentrate per cow and 1.3t per cow of maize silage. 63% of the cow's diet came from pasture and 20% from concentrates and the remainder from maize silage. Dave achieved the high pasture utilisation by closely monitoring his pastures to ensure the right quality and quantity of grass for the herd. When the group visited, Dave was taking fields out for round baled silage despite the cost, to maintain the pasture quality for the autumn. Pasture management was the key on all three farms visited with all the farmers walking and measuring their pastures weekly.

Rob and Tracey Studley, the second farmers visited, were very clear about what their family wanted from farming and then looked for ways of achieving these goals. When the Studleys returned to the home farm, the aim was for Mr and Mrs Studley senior to remain on the home farm, but not be needed for full time farm work. Rob and Tracey began to look at the options, and share-farming allowed the family to reach this goal. Interestingly Rob commented that 80% of the preparation for a share-faming arrangement, such as taxation and agreements can be done before looking for a potential share-farming partner. The Studleys' clear family goals have led to their current farming system of once-a-day milking. Rob and Tracey wanted time to spend with their young family and have time to fine tune the management of the farm. This required the equivalent of a full time staff member, or alternatively once-a-day milking. With the profitability of both options budgeted to be the same, the Studleys' opted for once a day milking, and are now in their first season.

A simple farm system was the aim of all the farms visited. George Holmes, the third farm the group visited, had a policy of owning the minimum machinery possible on his farm. He uses self feed silage to lower both the machinery and labour requirements and uses contractors whenever possible on the farm. The discussion group trip to Dorset provided group members with a chance to see three different farms and discuss farm management with the host farmers. The group returned to Cornwall with ideas to make their farms simpler and more profitable. The tour was supported by VTS and part funded by EAGGF and Defra.

The next meeting of the Mid Cornwall Dairy Focus Group will be held on Wednesday 7 September at 11.00am on Peter Warne's farm, Bodmin. The attendees will be discussing 'What are the economics of maize as a feed? Is it more profitable to grow maize on the home farm or milk more cows?' Peter has installed a new backing gate for the parlour and the group will look at his outdoor rearing of calves.

If you are interested in finding out more about the range of Grassland Challenge focus groups, please telephone the office on 01579 372295 or by check the website: www.farm-management-sw.co.uk.

Grassland Challenge is a partnership project led by Duchy College on behalf of the Cornish Grassland Societies in association with the Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research (IGER), aiming to improve the competitiveness of grassland and forage producers in Cornwall through technology transfer and dissemination of best practice. This project is part financed by Objective One European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) and Defra and through sponsorship from Cornwall Farmers Limited and their suppliers.

For further information please contact Hazel Burton of Grassland Challenge on 01579 372295 or email: hazel.burton@duchy.ac.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in Grassland Challenge through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

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Editor's notes:

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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