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Published
28 .Nov.2017

Winter Feed mix offers ideal forage for heifers

Dairy farmer Hywell Lewis was pleased with his first crop of Winter Feed

At Parc Issa at Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochant, near Oswestry, Hywel Lewis, who farms in partnership with his wife Sarah, is also attempting to outwinter heifers for the first time this year. He has 459 breeding ewes and 16,000 laying hens on one farm and 155 Friesian dairy cows, which calve all year round, at Parc Issa. The herd has increased over the past three years, up from 115.

“We feel 155 cows is as many as we can manage within our 122 hectares of owned land and 16 hectares of summer grazing,” says Hywel Lewis. “But we won’t have enough space for the in-calf heifers in winter. We could send them away, but would rather have them at home.”

An old 2.4ha, south-facing sward close to the farmyard was sprayed off with Roundup on 1 July. A cow track, made of shale from a small quarry in the field, was put down the centre of the field to provide access.

A hundred and twenty big bales of second cut silage were placed around the outer edges of the field. Nitrogen fertiliser was applied at 44kg/ha and a 1t/ha of chicken manure was spread.


Hywel Lewis (right) and Donald Boyd of Oliver Seeds in the Winter Feed

Winter Feed, an Oliver Seeds mixture containing Sovereign kale, Winfred forage rape and Green Globe turnip was sown with a Zimtech Aitcheson precision drill by local contractor Rex Jackson on 12 July, at a seed rate of 6kg/ha.

“The crop was a bit slow to get away in the dry conditions – but I am really pleased with how it is looking now. It is dense and leafy and there are plenty of turnips coming through which are getting bigger and bigger,” says Mr. Lewis. “Having a brassica break crop between grass leys will also help combat any potential frit fly or leatherjacket problems.”

The heifers were introduced to the Winter Feed from mid October, depending on the weather and grass growth. When it is finished the soil will be tested and treated with appropriate levels of lime, phosphate and potash and reseeded with a long term grazing ley.

“This is quite a different crop for us to grow, and under quite testing conditions here,” Mr. Lewis admits. “If successful, we shall try some more next year. The signs are looking good so far.”

 

This article first appeared in British Dairying – November 2017