Spring 2020 a first for early turnout in North Yorkshire

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Strategic farmer Guy Prudom tells us how spring 2020 was a first for early turnout in North Yorkshire and what management decisions he has put in place to keep grass growing. 

Grass growth rates have varied significantly across the country over the last month. In northern areas, average daily temperatures have remained cold, restricting growth, particularly on cooler upland farms. In contrast, some southern and lowland areas are beginning to see the impact of low soil moisture levels restricting grass growth.

At Northfields Farm down by the seaside, we turned out a mob of approx. 25 store cattle, weighing from 300‒450 kg, in mid-March onto covers of in excess of 2800 kg/ha DM. These are paddocks of about 7 acres and cattle are moved once a week. We have never turned cattle out this early down there before and are amazed at how dry and well the grass is growing. Grass seems to be keeping up with cattle and there are 50 stores down there now. I am yet to apply any nitrogen, but we spread 8 t/acre of box muck back in February.

Davison Farm, where we host the AHDB events, went from swamp-like conditions in February to letting cows and calves out in mid-March onto covers of about 2500 kg/ha DM. Another first for us!

On the poorer grazing, about 125 kg/ha of nitrogen and sulphur was applied in mid-March to try to and increase grass growth. However, it was bitterly cold and growth was minimal. Thankfully, I was able to move one batch of cows and calves on and off some silage land just to see them through a tight week. 

The secret at the start seemed to be to graze a paddock for just two days and then move the cow pairs on. Now it has warmed up, grass is growing a lot quicker and I am able to leave them in a paddock for three days, in much larger mobs as the cows move towards finishing calving.

Last weekend, I put another 125 kg/ha of nitrogen and sulphur on the poorer-grazing land at Davison to build that grass wedge up. We are starting to get some fog rolling in on a night, which is laying down a nice bit of moisture. If the grass does get in front of me, I will shut some paddocks up for baling.

Going forward, I still have a fair amount of clamped silage left for the cows, so I doubt I will be taking an extra cut this year. My plan is to forward-order extra straw for this winter to mix in with the silage. Although we have had an extra 30 cows calve down this spring, taking us to 230 suckler cows, we are still a little understocked, especially as the paddocks are allowing us to utilise the grass more efficiently. I’m going to create more paddocks, providing I can knock some posts into the ground!

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