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New ideas boost forage quality and cow performance

Pembrokeshire dairy farmer John Philips has focused on producing high-quality forage in order to successfully utilise what can be grown on-farm.

John, who milks 200 predominantly Holstein Friesian cows in a family partnership at Great Molleston, Narberth, sees milk from forage as a key way to increase margins and maintain the sustainability of the farm.

Creating high quality forage

“Cows as ruminants are designed to work efficiently with high-quality forage. The farm here grows plenty of grass, ensuring we grow and utilise the best quality we can to drive the business forward,” says John, who has been working with James Wilyman of ForFarmers to help achieve this.

John says: “We have a regular grass reseeding policy which gives us access to the latest grass genetics and has a huge effect on both quality and quantity of the grass grown. We also soil test to ensure we have the nutrients to support quality growth and a fertiliser plan which will address any shortfalls."

“I believe forage variety helps drive intakes. After a period growing maize we changed to barley wholecrop, but we found it very dry. Last year we moved to a 40% pea and 60% barley mix wholecrop and have found it is a wetter crop, with dry matters of about 25-30%. It works very well in the cows’ diet, when combined with high-quality grass silage, and you can tell they enjoy it.”

John Philips with his herd of cows

Discussions and ideas

John is a member of the Narberth and District Grassland Society. The discussions and ideas he gets from talking to other farmers and visiting other farms has helped give him inspiration for improvements at home.

John says: “Talking to people with the same aims and seeing new ideas in practice really helps drive your understanding of a topic. We have also changed our silage additive to Sil-All 4x4, which has a great fermentation and keeps improving silage quality and intakes.”

Milk from forage results

Between June 2020 and February 2021, milk from forage has risen by just over 300 litres per cow at Great Molleston. Yield per cow has already also risen in that same period by 200 litres.

John says: “We are on a Tesco cheese contract with First Milk, so constituents are important. High-quality forage has supported our fat and protein levels as yield per cow has risen and over winter we maintained levels of 4.7% fat and 3.4% protein."

“We have also dropped the moist feed from the diet over winter as our forage quality improved and margins have increased as the benefits begin to show.”

James says: “Providing cows with a high-quality palatable feed is important to John. The attention to detail and his willingness to discuss and try new ideas is really paying off  in his forage quality and ultimately the cows’ performance.”

For more information

To find out more about our forage products or services please speak to your local ForFarmers Account Manager or follow the link below:

Contact a Forage Specialist