Out-wintering cattle are fed silage, the easy way

These out-wintered in-calf heifers are no trouble to manage, and do well on the diet.

Turnips, which are fed to these cattle, along with grazing rye sown after a crop of spring barley.

The new year and its new diary present the chance of a fresh look at the farm and how it is managed.

So the new year resolution is to do exactly the same as last year, which could have been worse.

There’s comfort in knowing that things went better for you than for ‘Sean down the road’, where the wheels nearly fell off and he found himself looking for silage bales when none were about.

So the diary can do what it always does: recording events and farm jobs, a comment on the weather, and forward notes of inspections, testing, and future events.

But the problem is that you want the farm to work fractionally better than last year.

From time to time, you have ideas that might make it happen. The difficulty is remembering them before you pick up the same tools and kit as you used last year, and you find yourself doing it the same as ever. Then, there’s a great temptation to abandon any idea of progress, but keep plodding on. In any event, the farm payment will be coming in, so all is likely to be well.

My new year resolution is to put all the bright ideas into the diary — in the month when I need to take action. With luck, it will mean the tasks get done in the improved way, rather than just as I have always done them.

Here’s something that needs a bit of planning, but if you’re thinking of cutting costs and out-wintering cattle this year, it’s worth adding to your new diary now, before you forget about it.

Out-wintered cattle are minimum work

The main picture (above) shows a system that I discovered ten years ago, and it’s gaining popularity in west Wales. The cattle are on stubble turnips and grazing rye that was sown after a crop of spring barley.

Once these are planted, the farmers get down to making second-cut silage, and cart the bales to the newly sown field and place them in a line, stood on the ends.

The number and spacing of the bales is calculated by the number of out-wintered cattle, width of field, and so on. When it’s time to graze, the electric fence is moved up the field, and the adapted ring feeder, which has the bottom chopped off to make it light so one person can move it, is slipped over the bale in the strip.

Feeding is just like strip-grazing — moving the fence up — with the added job of moving the ring feeder, as well. There’s no silage to move, no mess in the field where the silage is fed, and no need to take the tractor into the field.

The fence has a solar-charged battery, which keeps it working at full-kick, and this field will last the heifers around six weeks.

If the crop escapes too much damage, there’s the chance to add early nitrogen and snatch a quick grazing in the spring, and if the cattle are off early, they can be followed by leaving the crop to seed for the combine.

Travelling around the countryside, I occasionally see a line of round bales marching up a field, and know what it’s all about, and that it may have occurred because of my writing.

You can see a video of the system by finding ‘TV’ on the www.farmideas.co.uk website.

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