A commitment to organic driving improvements in efficiency and sustainability

In 1997 Somerset-based AH Warren Trust started its journey into organic milk production for all three of its dairy herds. Fast-forward to 2024 and the Trust remains committed to organic principles and constantly challenges itself to improve efficiency and sustainability.

Dairy Nutrition
Warren trust Header 2048 1024 px - ForFarmers UK

At the heart of the AH Warren Trust’s dairy enterprise is a desire to be as self-sufficient and forage focused as possible. Maximising use of homegrown feed, utilising diverse crop rotations and a well-managed paddock grazing systems are just some of the tools Farm Manager, Ryan Sloman Brown, uses to achieve this.

“We constantly challenge ourselves to do better,” explains Ryan, who has worked for the Trust for over 11 years. “The aim is to produce great quality milk while working with nature and natural processes. We know that organic milk will always command a premium, and demonstrates the positive story behind how we farm to customers.”

Ryan manages 850 cows across two all-year-round calving herds of Holstein cows and one smaller autumn-block herd of Holstein-Norwegian Red crosses. Current average milk yield across the herds is 8,300 litres, at 4.2% butterfat and 3.3% protein. All milk is supplied to a local, independent dairy.

Home-grown feed

“We utilise an extensive and varied crop rotation,” explains Ryan. “Not only does this provide a varied and nutrient dense diet for the cows, but it also helps build up nutrients in the soil, improve soil structure and support biodiversity. Increasing species diversity is a core regenerative principle, and we see the benefits of embracing this.

“Over the years we’ve developed a crop rotation that suits our system. This starts with three years of red clover to build nitrogen in the soil, which helps fuel the growth of subsequent cereal crops – usually winter wheat, followed by barley. We’ll also integrate cover crops before going back to red clover, and we’ll grow some lucerne if we can.”

These crops are fed to the cows in a TMR, via a mixer wagon. The housed-cow ration usually comprises 30kg red clover grass silage, 19kg of pea and barley wet silage, 8kg of wholecrop, 1.5kg of crimped wheat and 0.6kg of soya, topped up with a ForFarmers 21% protein blend. Dry Matter Intakes and feed efficiency rates are tracked regularly.

“During the grazing season, we’ll buffer feed with 20kg of grass silage, 8kg wholecrop, 2kg haylage and 1.2kg of the 21% blend,” continues Ryan. “In the parlour we’ll feed a maximum of 4kg per head per day of 18% dairy cake during the housed period and a 16% cake when grazing.”

Warren cows feed barrier Text media 1140px wide

Clear focus on forage

With red clover requiring more time to develop in quality and yield compared to grass, the business has opted to take a first cut of silage a little later in the season.

“Red clover is slower growing, so waiting until the second week of May delivers the best yield and quality,” explains Ryan. “We want to give that high protein red clover a chance to develop, and find that the second cut is often our best cut. Once first cut is done, we’ll cut every six weeks and usually take three cuts.

“All harvested grass is treated with an inoculant. This provides some reassurance for a good fermentation and helps improve silage quality. We aim for high MELK value red clover silage, with ME values in excess of 11, and crude protein above 13.5%.”

Milk from forage averages around 3,200 litres, with high quality grass silage fuelling this figure, as well as well-managed and diverse herbal grazing leys.

“We aim to have cows out between March and October,” says Ryan. “Our grazing platform is around 162ha, and we’ll rotationally graze the cows on 4ha paddocks, which are subdivided into cells, each providing four rounds of grazing.

“Target entry covers are 3,000kg DM/ha, with exit rates of 1,600kg DM/ha. We don’t want to take grass down too low, or it negatively impacts regrowth, especially in herbal leys. As well as providing a wide range of nutrients for the cows, these leys have proven very resilient during challenging weather and – with different nutrient needs and rooting depths – have encouraged better soil health and structure.”

Getting the right support

Ryan has worked closely with ForFarmers UK Organic & Grazing Commercial Manager, Ben Trott for over 10 years and values his support.

“It’s good to have someone to share ideas with,” continues Ryan. “Ben’s been a great help in ensuring we get the feed we need, at a good price, providing nutrition advice and doing all our silage analysis.”

Ben also encouraged Ryan to trial the new myForFarmers digital feed ordering system, which has been a success across the Trust’s farms. “I really like the system,” explains Ryan. “It has made the feed ordering process much more efficient and less time consuming. From one account, I can easily order deliveries to any of the farms and provide specific delivery notes and feed bin allocations.

“It’s much easier to keep track of orders and better plan our future feed requirements. We’ll continue to use the system going forward.”

While Ryan is pleased with how the dairy herds are running, he’s always on the lookout for ways to improve and enhance the business.

“We’re completely committed to dairy farming,” concludes Ryan. “We will continue to challenge ourselves to improve efficiency and cow performance, while respecting nature.

“It’s a challenging time to be a dairy farmer, but I’m looking forward to see what the future brings.”

Warren cow
Share this page

Get in touch with our dairy specialists

Contact our dedicated team of dairy specialists for advice and how we can help your business.

CTA block dairy 1140 x 1520 px