Christopher Murley farms in partnership with his two brothers and parents on neighbouring farms on the western tip of Cornwall. Higher Bojewyan Farm has 180 autumn calving pedigree Jerseys and Levant Farm runs 120 spring calving cows on the 400-acre mostly grass enterprise.
As I write this in mid-January, it has been one of the best winters weather wise for a long time, at least here in west Cornwall. We were able to keep most stock outside day and night on grass only until nearly the end of October, with only the autumn block at Bojewyan in by night.
Cows at Levant came in at night on November 8, and came in by day on December 15. Cows at Levant have performed very well in their second year on once-a-day milking, and averaged 3800 litres at 6% fat and 4.16% protein on 400kgs concentrate. This past year we fed a small amount of silage after they calved in the spring until the weather warmed up and the grass was growing fast enough to keep in front of them.
This helped keep condition on them in early lactation and slow digestion enough for cows to make most use of the grass in early spring. We also fed some good quality clamp silage from late October which encouraged them to keep milking on, albeit at slightly lower quality than last year. Now they are all dry and have moved on to round bale haylage until calving which starts in mid-February.
The autumn calvers at Bojewyan started off very well with few problems at calving or in the first few weeks. Then when they were housed and stopped having grazed grass we had some problems with digestive upsets, some mastitis and various problems possibly due to lack of resistance. We had the vet take various samples which didn’t really highlight any problems and we came to the conclusion that the cows where struggling with some acidosis, with the silage being more acid than the analysis would suggest. We then started using some alka buffer and then changed to another clamp, and things seem to have settled now.
All youngstock stayed on grass only until December 8 when they moved on to kale and haylage. Apart from a few days so far we haven’t had to put up with too much mud, making it much easier and more pleasant to move fences and round feeders. Also we are more in control of slurry spreading than we have been for many years, being able to spread almost when we wanted without making any mess which makes a change from previous years.
Thoughts are now turning to turnout at Bojewyan, hopefully in early February, and then calving at Levant. Because of the kind winter, grassland is looking very good with only some very low lying ground being too wet. Most of the grazing platform on both dairies has been grazed off nice and clean which will hopefully provide some good quality grazing in February.
Youngstock will be grazed on the off-land destined for first cut silage when they have finished the kale, and ground and weather conditions allow. Depending on what sort of weather we have will determine how much land we use for silage, but we should have enough grazing without using too much silage ground. We always find we make better first cut if the fields have been grazed first to take off any winter growth.
In addition, owing to the kind autumn we were able to run the slitter over most of the grazing platform in ideal conditions. One thing we have noticed is that the fields which have been slit are more firm underfoot and drain better after rain.
With turnout round the corner the next job is to repair some of the electric fences around fields that we rent. These were all done with flexible plastic wire as a temporary job five to six years ago and this now needs replacing. At home all permanent fences are galvanised wire which is more expensive but if done properly will last a long time. Some of the fields with kale in will need barbed wire fences mending before we seed them to grass in the spring.
Once cows and youngstock have done their first rotation we will spread 35kg/ha urea and sulphur to kick start things, with another dose after the next grazing before changing to an ammonium nitrate/urea blend in mid season to keep the grass growing well. We bought most of our fertiliser back in September at what now seems a very good price. Let’s hope for a good grazing season, better milk prices and a kind Brexit!