Investing in their own silage-making equipment has helped service herd expansion, improve silage quality and build flexibility into the system at Merryfield Farm, Shepton Mallet.
The Corp family brought silage-making in-house in 2013 as a means of taking greater control over when and how silage was harvested, rather than relying on busy contractors.
The Corps try to grow and utilise as much home-grown forage as possible, with the business producing grass silage, maize, fodder beet and wholecrop wheat and barley.
The farm is made up of 129 hectares (320 acres) owned, 121ha (300 acres) rented and 202ha (500 acres) contract farmed. The 450-cow black and white herd yields 9,000 litres a cow a year at 4.15% fat and 3.38% protein. 2,700 litres comes from forage.
Joe Corp says: “Silage is very important. It’s the base of everything. It’s a lot easier to manage cows if you’ve got good silage as a base and it reduces what you need to buy-in.”
Having initially bought a trailed harvester, frustrations with speed of harvest and reliability pushed the family to invest in a self-propelled forager, which proved more efficient. Since then, machinery has grown to include Easycut B 870 CV butterfly mowers from Krone and a second-hand Swardro 1400, 4 rotor Krone rake. A new Krone BiG X 580 Forager will be arriving for the 2019 season. The farm also has a large loading shovel.
Mr Corp says the kit has been essential to boost efficiencies and cope with herd expansion.
“Herd size has grown over the last 10 years from 250-450 cows, so everything has been pushed harder. We’ve been able to cope with that by cutting more in a day and picking more up, while making quality silage.
“It’s given us flexibility so we’re not having to rely on anyone else. And it’s pushed us to expand. We’ve taken the leap to own as much equipment as possible, which has enabled us to take on the contract farming arrangement.”
With multiple crops grown across the farm, the kit allows the team to harvest small areas of different forages, as and when they are ready. For example, Italian rye-grass leys drilled in July will be cut in September and then before the main perennial rye-grass and red clover or white clover leys in spring.
Vetches which are planted behind barley to meet greening requirements will also be silaged in the last week of April, prior to maize drilling.
This year’s first cut grass silage – although sightly drier than usual at 36% dry matter – analysed fairly typically at 12.8% crude protein, 67.5 D-value and 10.8ME.
Mr Corp believes cutting grass at the right time and consolidation in the clamp are the most important factors in producing quality silage. This means cutting before grass goes to head and having an extra tractor on the clamp where possible.
“Cutting at the right time is the most important factor and making sure everybody does every part of their job properly,” says Mr Corp.
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