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Making most of our grass fields; Dairy farm relies on management and MegaBite.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor

DENBIGHSHIRE dairy farmer Arthur Owen has relied on the same grazing mixture for the past 16 years as he attempts to extract maximum milk from his grass.

His 360 dairy cows produce 3,800 litres off grazed grass and silage, which is cut from 74ha of off-lying land at Bodysgaw Isaf, Llannefydd.

In a good year he is looking to produce up to 14 tonnes of dry matter per hectare, even from his grazing land.

"Our aim is to maximise the production of milk from grass and fields have to perform," he said.

Since the turn of the century Mr Owen has sown MegaBite from Oliver Seeds on his 104ha grazing platform, which his cows graze from early February to late November, weather permitting.

A late heading, persistent, mainly diploid perennial ryegrass, timothy and white clover blend, MegaBite has good disease resistance and a high D-value.

The fields are grazed rotationally behind electric fencing, with the time left for resting and regrowing varying according to the time of year - three weeks in the spring and up to six weeks in the autumn.

"We look after our grass really well and they reward us with long life," said Mr Owen, runner-up in this year's Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Sir Bryner Jones Memorial Award.

"If you cannot keep a field of MegaBite going for at least 10 years, then there is something wrong with how it is managed."

Calved in a tight 10-week block and milked twice a day, Bodysgaw's cows average 7,200 litres of milk with very little concentrate feed.

Mr Owen reseeds around 12haa-year across fields that have varying soil types, from heavy clay to shallow limestone.

Most times the field is sprayed off, ploughed, rolled and cultivated with a power harrow, before the seeds are drilled in and rolled once more.

Recently, on fields that cannot be ploughed, grass seed has been spread over the top of rotavated ground and rolled in with good success.

Reseeds established in late August or September germinate quickly and the sward is grazed with sheep over a matter of days, to encourage the plants to tiller.

The field is then left over winter and will be ready for the cows to graze the following spring.

"We treat the new reseeds with care in their first year, but they will be grazed by the cows for short periods in good weather conditions in February or March," said Mr Owen.

"We put 50kg of nitrogen every few weeks onto the grazing ground in the growing season. This year we applied sulphur for the first time and the results have been very encouraging.

"Last year we added some stress-resistant festulolium called Lofa into the MegaBite mix, on land that burns out in the summer.

"This sward grew much quicker in the spring than other fields reseeded at the same time."

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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Oct 20, 2016
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