Grassland Challenge Supports County Field Day
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
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.
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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Objective One Partnership Office
Truro TR1 2UD
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Telephone: 01872 223439