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03.05.06
Grassland Challenge Supports County Field Day

2006 Grassland Society County Field DayOver 140 farmers attended the 2006 Grassland Society County Field Day hosted by Bude Grassland Society on Tuesday 25th April. Laura Biddick, County Grassland Society Secretary and Extension Officer for Grassland Challenge presented the County Cup to Silage Competition winner Mark Button from Polshea near St Tudy. The host farmers for the day were society members Keith and Jill Johns at Morwenstow and Francis, Elizabeth and Robert Bray near Marhamchurch.

The morning visit was held at Keith and Jill Johns' Stursdon Farm, past winner of the County Silage Competition and Grassland Management Competition, where the farm walk showed excellent grassland management. Keith stated that Stursdon is very much a grass farm with almost every field facing north and some quite steep land. Grassland is sown to long term leys consisting of a mix of perennial ryegrass and white clover mixtures. Following the purchase of the neighbouring farm, Elmsworthy, a south facing farm with more sheltered grazing and better cereal ground, Keith and Jill now farm 360 acres with some barley and whole crop wheat, running 210 pedigree Holstein cows, 148 followers and 30 beef calves.

Three years ago, Stursdon Farm was a very intensive system due to limited grazing and slurry spreading options. Keith said they were carrying as many stock as possible and were heavily reliant on fertiliser, applying 633 kg/acre of fertiliser. Now, more emphasis is made on utilising slurry and with the extra land the amount of fertiliser applied has been dramatically reduced to 222 kg/acre. Feed costs have also been reduced by growing barley replacing bought-in rearing concentrates.

Cornwall Grassland County Chairman, Trevor Bray emphasised the importance of the five Grassland Societies throughout Cornwall, "The Societies provide opportunities for farmers to gain new knowledge that could benefit their business as well as socialise with like minded people facing the same challenges in farming." Each society holds meetings throughout the autumn and winter along with a Silage Competition and Grassland Management Competition each year.

The afternoon visit was to East Helscott Farm, courtesy of Francis and Elizabeth Bray with their son Robert. The main enterprise is a 200 sow breeder-finisher herd, currently expanding to 270 sows. Currently, over 4000 pigs are sold a year. Francis and Elizabeth's daughter, Jill does pig management and the accounts and both Francis and Jill conducted tours around the pig buildings. Due to the health and disease risks, visits to pig farms are very rare, so this was a unique opportunity at the County Field Day. The farm also has a beef and arable enterprise which Robert discussed and showed the members. The beef enterprise has recently changed from buying in beef calves to a 65 cow suckler herd, with the plan to finish all progeny. Of the 470 acres farmed, 275 acres is in winter wheat, winter oats and spring beans. All of these crops are used to provide feed for the pigs and cattle.

Robert explained the importance of the pig manure and how valuable it is in terms of a nutrient resource to both arable and grass land. It is generally thought the use of pig manure is worth an extra 1/2 t of corn per acre. Following the change to suckler cows, the total beef numbers are down from 350 cattle in 2005, but future plans for the enterprise depends on the beef price. Future breeding policy includes artificially inseminating the best cows to a Simmental to breed replacements; artificially inseminating the heifers to a Limousin for easy calving, and the rest to a pedigree Charolais bull, recently purchased to finish progeny as steers or heifers.

The day was extremely interesting, enjoyable and informative. Special thanks to all involved in organising an excellent day and the sponsors Harpers Home Mix, Bude Grassland Society and Grassland Challenge. Cornwall Grassland Society is one of the three stakeholders in Grassland Challenge, together with the Institute for Grassland and Environmental Research and Duchy College.

For further information please contact Laura Biddick on 07967 131521.

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).

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Martin Butler, at Government Office South West on 01752 635134 before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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Editor's notes:

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 the European Agricultural Guidance & Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) and Defra, and through sponsorship from Cornwall Farmers Limited and their suppliers.

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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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