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Farming

Dairy farm switches to grazing fodder beet as high-quality winter feed

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GRAZING fodder beet as a winter crop for beef and dairy cattle is reducing wintering costs at a Pembrokeshire farm.

The James family currently grow 10 hectares (ha) for wintering dairy beef stores produced by their dairy herd at Stackpole Home Farm, but are scaling that up to 45ha to provide feed for lactating and dry cows.

Cows are currently wintered on deferred grazing or kale with baled silage but switching to fodder beet will provide a cheaper, higher quality source of feed.

During a recent Farming Connect open day, George James, who farms with his parents, Chris and Debbie, said growing kale was getting trickier because of periods of prolonged drought following drilling in late May or early June.

“The earlier drilling dates for fodder beet give it an advantage, and we can comfortably get 20 tonne dry matter (tDM)/ha from it so it is by far the highest yielding winter grazing crop,’’ he said.

At around seven pence per kilogramme of DM, it works out at around half the cost of silage therefore the new system will reduce winter feed costs, plug feed gaps in late and early lactation, and capitalise on the farm’s free-draining sandy soils.

But transitioning the herd onto the crop and correctly allocating it will be crucial to animal health and performance.

During the open day, fodder beet expert Dr Jim Gibbs, a veterinarian and research scientist in ruminant nutrition at Lincoln University, New Zealand, and Marc Jones, an independent grass and forage consultant, shared important advice on how to get that right – and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Fodder beet has a high sugar and water content so sufficient time must be given for feed intakes to adjust.

Dr Gibbs warned that dairy cows are the livestock class most susceptible to transition acidosis due to gorging, a situation which occurs if too much fodder beet is allocated too early in the transition process.

To prevent this, he advised feeding low amounts of fodder beet initially, building up intakes slowly, and providing supplementary feed to keep the cow’s rumen fully fed.

Feeding grass or silage as the supplement initially is advisable as if less palatable feed like straw is offered, cattle won’t eat the quantities they need to maintain condition and performance.

A marker for whether cattle have properly transitioned is if they are leaving beet behind – Dr Gibbs suggested this should be around 5-10% a day.

“There is no risk of acidosis after full transition providing intakes are adequate,’’ he pointed out.

A lactating cow needs 15-18kg DM in total therefore 5-6kg DM of fodder beet plus grass or silage should be the target for lactation feeding as the crop should not make up more than a third of their feed.

“Start by offering them 1kg DM/day and, once all the animals are eating the bulb, move up 1kg DM/day every two days,’’ said Dr Gibbs.

He recommended transitioning until target intakes are met.

For dry stock weighing 500kg and for in-calf heifers, the daily feed requirement is 14kg DM – as fodder beet can make up 80% of their diet, they can be allocated 11-12kg DM of fodder beet and 2kg DM roughage once they have transitioned.

Build them up to this in stages, 1-2kg DM at day one, increasing 1kg DM every other day, with 7-8kg of supplement until day seven, gradually dropping supplement to 2kg at 14 days when they have fully transitioned.

If feeding 2kg of supplement, careful consideration needs to be given as to how the supplement will be fed to enable all animals to access it; if feeding bales in ring feeders, increasing to 3-4kg is needed due to the restricted feed space.

For youngstock aged from six months, Dr Gibbs recommended starting with a daily intake of 0.5 kg DM a head of fodder beet, increasing this by 0.5kg every other day, fed with 3-5kg of grass or silage. At day 14 that mix should be 5-6kg of fodder beet and 1-2kg of grass or silage.

Marc Jones, who shared details of how he operates his system of growing and feeding fodder beet on his farm at Trefnant Hall, Berriew, said matching fodder beet varieties to class of stock is important.

He said Lactimo and Geronimo are excellent grazing varieties because they have a high proportion of leaf and more of the bulb sits out of the ground, which allows for a high level of utilisation.

A lower DM variety such as Brigadier is more palatable and will achieve better utilisation in smaller calves weighing around 200kg, he added.

Delana Davies, Cross Sector Manager at Farming Connect, who facilitated the event, said growing fodder beet provides real opportunities for reducing winter feeding costs in all classes of stock.

“Added to this there are savings to be made on housing and straw requirements plus reduced slurry and manure production and spreading issues, making growing the crop a worthwhile consideration for many dairy, beef and sheep farmers,’’ she said.

Farming

Pembrokeshire estate to auction pedigree Hereford Cattle

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A PEMBROKESHIRE estate is set to auction its herd of pedigree Hereford cattle. Nearly 150 animals from the Hean Castle Estate in Saundersfoot are listed for a forthcoming dispersal sale, prompted by a change in the estate’s farming business.

The Hean Herd, an iconic sight on the estate since its introduction in 2012, replaced the farm’s award-winning dairy enterprise. The estate’s Home Farm is also being offered for letting, either as a whole or in separate lots.

This announcement was made by Hean Castle Estate this week in a Facebook post, which followers described as “sad news”.

A spokesperson for the estate commented: “We announce with great sadness that, following a strategic review of the estate’s farming business, the decision has been taken to cease the in-hand business, resulting in the dispersal of the ‘Hean’ Herd.”

The dispersal sale of the herd will take place on the farm on Saturday, 24th August.

The estate said on Facebook:” It is with great sadness that, following a strategic review of the Estate’s farming business, the decision has been taken to cease the in-hand business resulting in the dispersal of the ‘Hean’ Herd.

“A catalogue with full details will be published in due course, however the Dispersal sale will be held on Saturday 24th August, on the farm, and will be conducted by Mr Jonny Dymond BSc (Hons) FLAA of Messrs Halls Holdings Ltd

“The sale will comprise the following lots:

– 64 Spring Calved Cows and Heifers, with Calves at foot.

– 16 In-calf Cows due 1st September onwards.

– 6 In-calf Heifers due 1st September onwards.

– 29 Spring ’23 born Heifers running with Bulls for Spring ’25 calving.

– 20 Spring ’23 born Heifers, free of the Bull.

– 12 Autumn ’23 born Heifers

– 5 Stock Bulls.

– 22 Embryos.

“The Stock Bulls, a small selection of promising Bull Calves and all the Females are registered, and the remaining Bull Calves notified, with the Hereford Cattle Society.

“The Herd is FAWL Farm Assured, High Health Certified by Biobest and has Gold Standard Gwardu BVD Certification, is accredited free of BVD & IBR, and is vaccinated against Leptospirosis and Blackleg. Tested Clear for TB 18/07/24.

“Online Bidding for the sale will be available via MartEye.

“For further information, please contact David Burnhill, Herd Manager. (07483) 150253.”

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Farming

National Grid issue safety plea of ‘look out, look up’ to Welsh farmers

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DURING Farm Safety Week (22 – 26 July) and the Royal Welsh Show (22 – 25 July), Welsh farmers are being urged to ‘look out, look up’, and stay safe around electrical equipment to avoid the risk of accidents.

Every year, National Grid Electricity Distribution – the electricity operator for South Wales, the Midlands and South West – is called to incidents in which farm vehicles have collided with overhead power lines. It is estimated that at least one agricultural accident involving overhead lines is reported every day in the UK.

One of these reports was at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, when a harvester collided with a high voltage conductor, leaving the overhead line on the ground. After being made safe, the conductor was re-erected at an increased height to make sure farm machinery could pass safely underneath the power line. No one was injured.

At a farm in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, emergency repairs had to be carried out to overhead lines and conductors after a tractor hit an electricity pole. No one was injured.

As farm machinery continues to increase in size, the distance between equipment and nearby power lines is at risk of reducing, meaning that accidents could be more likely.

Paul Woodward, Safety Manager for National Grid Electricity Distribution, said:

“Every year, our engineers and technicians are called to incidents involving farming equipment and overhead power lines.

“Accidents involving the electricity supply can have devastating consequences, so it’s really important that the farmers ‘look out’ and ‘look up’ – particularly when working with big or heavy machinery.

“We are committed to ensuring that farm workers have the knowledge and resources they need to get home safe every day, and will continue to work with farming communities in South Wales and across the country to reduce incidents involving our power lines.”

As part of National Grid’s farm safety campaign, the operator has outlined five simple steps to ensure farmers stay safe when working close to power lines:

Never raise elevating equipment, such as spray booms, cabbage harvesters and trailer bodies, under or close to overhead power lines.
Never store or move materials under, or close to, overhead power lines, as this reduces the safe clearance distance beneath the overhead lines.
Know the maximum reach and height of any vehicle you are operating, and be vigilant when using GPS – accidents can still happen.
You cannot see electricity – the area around a fallen line, including the soil, equipment and other objects, could be live – so stay away.
If contact is made with a power line, farm workers are advised to stay in the cab and try to drive clear. If that is not possible, the driver should stay in the cab and telephone 105, only leaving the machine in an emergency. When leaving the vehicle, they should take care not to hold the machine and touch the ground at the same time, and take leaping strides so one foot is clear from the ground at all times – or ‘bunny hop’ away with both feet kept together.
Farmers are also encouraged to use the ‘What3Words’ app, which allows farmers to pinpoint the exact location of an incident. This means that network engineers can isolate the power in seconds using remote technology, therefore reducing the risk of accidents and threat to life.

National Grid will be at the Royal Welsh Show all week offering safety advice and giving out stickers to put in the cab of vehicles with a reminder of how to stay safe when working near power lines.

Farmers can find out more about National Grid’s safety advice and access additional resources at National Grid – Farming safety.

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Farming

The importance of keeping children safe on farms

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WALES Farm Safety Partnership, alongside Lantra Cymru has created a new e-learning course. ‘Children on Farms’ will give you guidance on keeping children safe on your farm during the upcoming summer holidays.

This course, taking roughly 45 minutes to complete, provides participants with the knowledge and tools to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for the whole family.

The course covers a wide range of child safety topics on the farm, including legal responsibilities, vehicle safety (tractors, ATVs), preventing falls, and managing hazards around equipment and harmful substances. It also emphasises the importance of creating a farm safety checklist.

Kevin Thomas Lantra Wales Director said; “Lantra understand the importance of children on family farms and fully support the need for the next generation to have a keen interest on the day-to-day workings of the farm, but it must be done with safety in mind. Lantra are fully committed to farm safety, especially for children, which is why Lantra have made this course free for everyone to complete”.

This timely resource is perfect for busy farmers who want to be proactive about child safety before the summer break.

A toolkit on child safety has also been created to underline the safety of children on farms.

Farms can be a dangerous place for children. Young children need a safe play area separate from the work zones, and for older children (under 16), any visit to the work area must be planned, closely supervised by an adult that’s not working, and for educational purposes.

Everyone in a farm work place has a responsibility to protect children who are vulnerable because of their age and physical and mental immaturity.

Vehicles and machinery present the greatest risk to children and are probably the areas of farm life most attractive to older children.

Meleri Jones, Farming Connect’s Health and Safety Coordinator, says “It’s important to keep safety in mind when children are on farm – you don’t want to live with regret.”

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