Dairy farmer Andrew Addison capitalises on the forage crops
he grows at Spittals Farm, Low Moor, Penrith.
|Andrew Addison with
his silage, and cows
Split by the busy A66 trunk road, Spittals is principally
dry, sandy loam with only 30 inches of rainfall a year and
Andrew and his team use crops grown on the less accessible
land to complement the use of grazed grass and silage year-round.
The system has evolved from a mixed farm to an expanding
dairy farm with the aim of running 200 cows yelding up to
9,000 litres at 4.2 per cent butterfat and 3.3 per cent protein
in band A from as much home-grown forage as possible.
Mr Addison and his wife Janet’s attention to detail
earned them the title of national joint runners-up in the
annual BGS Grassland Management Competition.
The 188 acres with good access to the farm steading is used
for paddock grazing the cows during the summer with further
away fields cut for silage or used to grow winter barley for
seed with straw used for bedding.
A further 129 acres which is unsuitable for cow grazing because
of the need to cross the A66 is down to arable crops which
are made into wholecrop silage - in 2005 the cropping
was 51 acres of winter wheat Einstein, 57 acres of triticale
variety Fidalio and 16 acres of Netouch peas, mainly grown
as a break crop. Any surplus wheat is sold off farm.
The farm, which totals 401 acres, includes ground three and
six miles away from the steading which are used to make hay,
dry cow grazing and grazing for followers.
“We calve between January and October and we try to
have as many cows in milk through the high priced milk period
as possible with the main block being summer calving with
the emphasis on producing weight of fat and protein,” said
“Because our land droughts quickly we can’t rely
on grass in the peak summer months, so we have adopted this
storage feeding system using home-grown forage crops,” he
Two cuts of grass silage along with the wholecrop wheat and
triticale and peas are ensiled in the same clamp.
Second cut silage is fed first and there is access to the
wholecrop throughout the year.
Typical mid winter rations are based on 19kg silage (wet
basis) 12kg wholecrop wheat and triticale, 3kg of peas, 3.5kg
of sugar and starch mix (KW Formula 1), 2kg of soya and 1kg
each of rape and maize distillers meal which is fed through
a feeder wagon to the cows as one group.
Out of parlour feeders are used to top up the high yielders
benefiting cows in early lactation and helping prevent later
lactation milkers becoming too fat pre-calving. The 19 per
cent protein concentrate brings concentrate use to 0.3kg a
litre across the herd which currently averages 8,400 litres
During the summer, grazed grass at up to 45kg replaces the
grass silage element of the diet with the wholecrop balancing
the ration depending on grass quality and quantity at up to
10kg a day.
The wholecrop adds fibre to the diet, particularly at turn-out
onto lush grass. The diet is further supplemented with citrus
pulp or beef pulp to maintain milk quality.
To make economies on the grass silage system, only two cuts
of silage were made during 2005 compared with the usual three
First cut, which was traditionally made on or around May
14 has now been put back to May 20. Second cut, which used
to follow on after five weeks, is now taken up to seven weeks
“Now we’re probably saving around £800
a year by not making the third cut which, although it was
reasonable quality, was variable in quantity and by cutting
the first two crops later we are getting bigger crops and
a comparable tonnage,” said Andrew Addison.
Contractors are used for all silage work with the exception
of trailer leading and rolling which Andrew undertakes himself
to seal the clamp well.
The grass is generally wilted for up to two days before ensiling.
Previous year’s sheeting is used on the clamp sides
and new sheets are placed directly on top of the silage with
last year’s sheets creating a double top layer.
First cut, which is made off up to 99 acres, is usually made
within one day to prevent the crop standing in the clamp unsheeted.
The 2005 first cut crop analysed at 27.9DM, 15.3 crude protein,
11.2 ME and 70.1 D value with second cut at a high 40.8 DM,
14.6 CP, 11.2 ME and 72.3 D value. An inoculant is used on
all the silage crops.
Soil is sampled every three to five years with a view to
applying the correct nutrients and fertiliser and identifying
any mineral deficiencies.
Over-wintered sheep have the run of the farm’s grassland
from early November until early January which gives plenty
of time for the ground to recover for early grass growth.
Slurry is applied generally up to early March after which
it is spread on stubble or set aside.
All silage ground receives 20.3.13 with sulphur and calcium,
applied mid March depending on ground conditions and grazing
ground is spread with nitrogen fertiliser on around March
20, followed by KNitro.
As well as working to a manure management plan, the farm
is in the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme with work including
replacing and laying hedges as well as restoring ponds and
The Addisons have joined LEAF as a way of enhancing the long
term viability of the farm - they have also recently
opened a conference barn in a converted stable.
Turn-out varies because of the weather - the farm lies
at 420 ft above sea level and can be exposed.
The re-seed policy is every seven to 10 years for grazing
ground and every five to seven years for silage cropping.
Tetraploids are favoured with a move towards high sugar varieties.
Newer varieties of clover are also introduced to the sward
after the grass is established. Seed mixtures are tailored
to soil type and use.
Cow comfort was improved for the herd with new cubicles as
well as investments in the parlour.
© Copyright 2005 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights