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Suckler cows out at last after late start to grazing season

Tim Phipps, Northamptonshire, gives us the latest from his pastures in the ’profit from grass’ series.

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With calving almost finished, Tim Phipps, who farms the 320-hectare (790-acre) Bragborough Hall, near Daventry, Northamptonshire, has nearly got all 100 suckler cows and calves out at grass after a late start to the grazing year.

But the delay has allowed a new electrified fence to be erected before turnout which will pay dividend across the season.


He says: “Like everywhere else it has been cold and wet with not much grass through to May. In March I turned out 14 sucklers, their calves and six heifers on to an area of 40 acres which is subdivided in to eight five-acre parcels, but had to quickly extend their allocation as grass growth was almost zero.”


To encourage spring grass on this area, a top dressing of 50kg nitrogen/ha of urea plus a dedicated phosphate fertiliser was applied after soil tests indicated the need last autumn. “Fortunately, across the farm our soil pH is good so there has been no need for lime, despite the poor state of many fields. We have also applied 100kg N/ha across the silage fields split into two applications.”


Having taken on the farm in 2012, the need for new fencing has been apparent. Although the wet spring delayed turnout, much-needed fencing work was completed with the help of a contractor and tracked vehicle to minimise soil damage.


He says: “The fencing is around an area of ridge and furrow which is reasonably productive. We have now got permanent electric fencing allowing me to subdivide paddocks as grass growth improves and should the need arise.


“We do need good quality grazing to improve the nutritional balance for the sucklers through early lactation and before the bulls go back in on June 10. We will also be monitoring a group of maiden heifers which we hope will reach a service weight of 400kg at 14 months old; these were all at least 380kg apiece at turnout in late April,” he says.


Another aim for spring is to monitor grass growth weekly, having not used a plate-meter or recording software before now. “It will be interesting to compare our figures with our AHDB Grass for Beef mentor Matt Pilkington’s neighbouring farm.”


Other results have already made interesting reading, he adds. “We have sent off our first batch of Stabiliser and Stabiliser cross bulls to Woodheads, at Spalding, for Morrisons’ yearling beef scheme. This year is the first time we have been able to use our own baled silage for the 50:50 silage and rolled barley diet, so hopefully that will have helped with costs.


“We have done our job on-farm but the market seems to have been against us regarding price which will hit margins. But the abattoir results were good, with an average carcase weight of 366kg, average daily deadweight gain of 0.96kg. Carcase grades were also good, with 12 -Us, two U+ and six Rs.”

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