Grazing and Forage Lessons from 2018
At the time of writing, we were in the midst of an extended spell of dry weather, so looking back to the lessons learned from the 2018 drought is a timely and worthwhile exercise. Tom Malleson from the Sherborne office of the Farm Consultancy Group discusses options to help you manage your forage through this period.
Measuring and monitoring grass growth and covers has never been more important. By measuring, you will know if your current grazing area is growing sufficient grass to meet demand. You will also be able to plan grazing and cutting better once rain arrives.
- Retain paddocks previously earmarked for cutting, and strip graze.
- Consider pre-mowing high covers that have been shut up for silage ONLY if increased water demand can be met. Pre-mown grass is drier and will increase the volume of water cows drink.
- Increase supplementation early to ensure grass covers are not driven down too far, i.e. 1650 to 1700 kgDM/ha.Average Farm Cover should not drop below 2000 kgDM/ha.
- Increase the length of the grazing rotation. Grazing on a short round (or worse, set stocking) will result in the plant being grazed before it has time to replenish its energy reserves. Beware of increasing beyond a 30-day round as grass quality will deteriorate.
Following the above points will prepare the farm to “bounce back” once rain arrives. There were huge differences in recovery rates between farms after the 2018 drought broke, with those who managed grass well seeing a much quicker recovery.
If grazing does become short, then consideration should also be given to the following points:
- Assess supplement purchases on quality first, then price comparing feeds on a tonne of dry matter basis, not actual price. Maintaining body condition and fertility is more important than maintaining output, so that when the drought ends cows are in a strong position to make up for some of the extra costs of feeding.
- Take advice on the formulation of rations.Cake formulations may need to change, depending on the analysis of other supplements.Consider feeding forage in the paddock, to avoid the costs of slurry handling, and the risk of injury on dry, slippery yards. Pick a field that you plan to reseed and use it as a sacrifice paddock to feed in if necessary.
- Do not neglect your replacement heifers, these are the future of the herd.Continue to ensure they receive high quality nutrition.If necessary, use leader/follower grazing system so that younger livestock have the best quality grass.
- Cull unproductive cows.Most herds can remove the bottom 10% of their cows and not notice a huge difference in business profitability as the remaining 90% performance increases, with the extra space created.
- If it suits your system dry cows off early, e.g. all year round or autumn calving herds. Be careful with extended dry cow periods that cows do not get over fat, which will cause calving difficulties and impact on the following lactation.
- Ensure your water supply is sufficient to meet the increased demand of hot weather.Cows require at least 60 litres of water per day plus 0.9 litres per litre of milk produced, so for a 30 litre cow she can drink 87 litres of water per day in normal weather conditions.It is essential to ensure sufficient trough space and water pressure to keep up with this demand, 10 cows drinking together can consume 140 litres per minute.
- Calculate and update silage stocks and requirements regularly to ensure you have sufficient for both buffer feeding and the winter period.Responding early to shortfalls can save money if prices rise during a drought season.As a guide the fresh weight density of a 30%DM silage is 615 kg/m3.If you know the size of your clamps you can calculate their capacity.Do not forget to make an allowance for wastage at 5-10%
Don’t act on gut feel and rely on hope to solve a deficit. Measure forage stocks and make decisions based on rational assumptions. Contact Tom at Tel: 07496 760242 or firstname.lastname@example.org for an independent view on your options.
Winter Economy Plan
As the country continues to struggle with the social and financial effects of Covid-19, Rishi Sunak has today announced further measures to help those most affected.
Job Support Scheme
The Chancellor confirmed that the current furlough scheme is to end on 31 October. This is being replaced by a Job Support Scheme, which is aimed at protecting viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months.
Under the scheme, which will run for six months and help keep employees attached to the workforce, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decrease in demand. Employers will continue to pay their employees for the hours worked, but for the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of the equivalent salary.
Eligible employees must be working at least 33% of their usual hours, with the level of grant being calculated based on the employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
All small and medium sized businesses can apply for the scheme, even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme it replaces. However, large businesses must show that their turnover has fallen during the crisis to make a claim.
This scheme will run for six months from the 1st November.
Self Employed Income Support Scheme
The Self Employed Income Support scheme, which is currently in its second phase, will be extended to cover income lost between November and January 2021. The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profit, and is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.
An additional grant, which may be adjusted to respond to the changing circumstances, will be available for self employed individuals to cover the period from February to the end of April.
Tax cuts and deferrals
The 15% reduction in the VAT rate for tourism and hospitality sectors is to continue to the end of March next year, meaning businesses in the sector will only need to charge 5% VAT. This will give businesses in the sector, which has been the most severely impacted by the pandemic, the opportunity to retain staff as they adapt to new trading environments and laws.
In addition, businesses who deferred their VAT payments will be able to take advantage of the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay the liability back over smaller instalments. Rather than paying a lump sum at the end of March next year, businesses will be able to make 11 small interest free payments during the 2021/22 financial year.
For self assessment taxpayers, they will be able to benefit from a 12 month extension on a ‘Time to Pay’ facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until 2022. Although this might provide some much needed cashflow relief, please bear in mind that this may leave you with a large payment to make in January 2022, so if you have the cash available now, it may be worth making the payments as planned.
Government backed loans
A new ‘Pay as You Grow’ repayment scheme was announced for those businesses who took out a Business Bounce Back loan, whereby the term of the loan is extended from six to ten years, which will cut the months repayments by nearly half. Interest only periods, of up to six months, are also available, as well as repayment holidays.
The term of the Business Interruption Loan has also been extended from six to ten years.
These loan schemes, as well as those for larger businesses, have been vital in keeping business afloat during the pandemic, and therefore the application deadlines have now been extended until the end of November, ensuring businesses who are seasonally effected can still apply.
For further information on any of the above, please visit the government website below:
As we continue to face challenging times, and it is now more important than ever to take stock and ensure that you are well placed to tackle the winter months during such an uncertain time. If we can be of assistance in any way, then please do not hesitate to contact us.
All information is correct at 24 September 2020.