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Stackyard Feature May 06

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    Cross-Compliance Concerns No Barrier To Out-Wintering

Cattle producers considering out-wintering cattle on self-feed brassicas can mitigate any cross-compliance concerns with careful planning.
Cattle producers considering out-wintering cattle on self-feed brassicas can mitigate any cross-compliance concerns with careful planning.
‘With careful planning, out-wintering cattle on kale need not give farmers cross-compliance concerns.’

“Provided you do a proper field risk assessment and take some simple practical steps, there’s no real barrier to out-wintering cattle on many UK livestock farms,” points out agronomist Simon Draper, contracted by Momenta to deliver cross-compliance advice as part of a DEFRA-funded initiative.

“Cross-compliance is an imperative consideration – not least so that your Single Farm Payment is not put in jeopardy – but it shouldn’t be that much of an obstacle for all but a few farms.”

Simon says that for best practice fields chosen for out-wintering should not have an extreme slope. And if they are close to watercourses or water supplies (eg. boreholes or springs) they should not be used. “Having avoided the obvious likely problem fields, it’s then important to choose land that dries out quickly.”

SAC beef specialist Gavin Hill agrees. SAC has been running an out-wintering demonstration on Maris Kestrel kale – co-funded by Quality Meat Scotland – at House O’ Muir Farm on the Bush Estate, Penicuik. Important lessons have been learned, and the key one is that for cows to out-winter successfully their welfare and the prevailing environmental conditions must be key considerations.

“Where soils are heavy and not very well draining, they will poach easily,” Gavin points out. “This results in an immediate welfare problem and difficulties with regeneration and crop establishment, to say nothing for the impact on soil structure and the environment.

Cows need a dry lie and also a degree of shelter to provide protection during extreme weather conditions. It is advantageous to have two runbacks, so that one can be used while the other is regenerating.”

Provided the cows are comfortable, it’s important to recognise the positive health benefits of wintering stock outside. “Cattle wintered outside in the right soil conditions appear contented and healthy,” Gavin observes. “Reducing indoor stocking definitely helps all round health and welfare – a particular benefit being a reduction in pneumonia outbreaks.”

Having earmarked the right fields for out-wintering it’s then a matter of setting the system up correctly. “We’ve established that doing all your machinery work in the summer and locating all the winter feed bales in the field prior to the cows entering makes an enormous difference to soil run off. Damage to the fields, especially around the gateways, was significantly reduced by keeping tractors off the land during the winter,” Gavin Hill says.

Once the brassica crop is established, Gavin Hill points out that GAEC proposals highlight the need to avoid soil damage due to heavy concentrations of stock around supplementary feeding areas. “This can be overcome by strip grazing a kale crop and moving an electric fence a metre a day – this allows the cattle to stand where the crop has been grazed off previously.”

Simon Draper agrees. “Poaching, run off and water-logging are all important cross compliance issues. You should also remember to take them into account in your Soil Protection Review that must be completed by 1st September 2006.”

link Early Maturing OSR Offers Seven-Day Harvesting Advantage
link Outside winter feeding on forage brassicas
link Extending the autumn grazing season with Kale

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