On the 1st of February this year we took members of the Global Dairy Farmers group and a few of their friends to the Grosvenor Dairy Farm in Cheshire in conjunction with the Fram Farmers Buying Group.
Last year we became members of the Global Dairy Farmers, with the idea of reaching out to forward thinking dairy farmers across the globe so we could exchange ideas on sustainability, efficiency and the future of dairy farms and their farmers. This was our first time meeting some of their members who are indeed on top of their game when it comes to this sector.
An award-winning commercial farm within Grosvenor’s Eaton Estate in Cheshire. Grosvenor Farms produce high-quality, nutritious, milk and cereal grains, adopting sustainable practices that benefit animal welfare and enhance the environment. Producing over thirty-five million litres of fresh milk a year – enough for half a million people every day – and growing 2,200 hectares of forage and grains for food production and animal feed. Grosvenor Farms has the lowest carbon footprint for milk production of the farms profiled using Agrecalc – an independent, integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) accredited, specialist agricultural resource efficiency calculator which provides the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions produced from routine farm activities.
One of our key objectives for the day was to discuss the increasingly important topics of Carbon Emissions, Recycling, Reducing Plastic and Forage Management.
The Farmers came from different sized units across the country, so it was a good base for discussion. All facing the same pressures of lowering CO2, reducing fertiliser, and imported feed costs and how to recycle all their plastic efficiently.
All agreed the UK needs a robust scheme for carbon calculations that can be applied to any unit. It seems only the Agrecalc one has IOS accreditation at the moment and results between the various schemes can vary wildly on the same holding. This will make it difficult for effective solutions to be rolled out If they cannot be measured accurately.
Recycling their plastic is now a regular part of the regime for all the attendee’s. The newly introduced APE scheme had not had any impact for them or even been heard of as most use a local recycling centre/skip to ensure the plastic gets back into the system. We were all intrigued by the new Catalytic Pyrolysis machine that can turn dirty silage sheets into fuel, wax, and clean water. At a cost of £1M, it is not a machine for every farm but with potential regionalised sites it could work well. The Organic Matter on most farm plastics actually is a benefit as it fuels the machine to get to temperature. The general agreement was that it is exceedingly difficult to reduce the plastic any one farm uses but efforts are made by having larger drums for chemicals, reusing what they can and switching to systems like Silostop Films which halves the amount used to cover the clamps.
After the tour of the very impressive Dairy unit, we headed to the rather vast array of silage clamps. Nice variety of crops ensiled – whole crop, maize, and plenty of grass. When you are feeding 2,500 cows plus followers, it does take an awful lot of silage.
All of the clamps are covered with Silostop Max as most are opened and closed a number of times over the year for additions of extra cuts/crops so the extra strong sheets are a bit of peace of mind that they can do this without tearing. Plenty of discussions about the benefit of using good film to reduce waste. The time taken to take off the top layer of waste to make sure it does not get into the diet was a significant factor for all of the visitors. Time is such a precious commodity so every hour saved can be an hour doing something much more beneficial – especially on a Sunday morning when the family want to spend time together. Really interesting chat about the benefits of Self-Propelled Feeder wagons emerged from this, again the time saved over a year as well as fuel and machinery costs were a massive benefit and enabled one of the groups to cover the cost of the machine and have so much more time to work on other tasks or spend with the family.
We were all in agreement the clamps were professionally managed, no waste, good covers with plenty of weight so the Grosvenor Team can happily pull back the sheets and feed out all the crops. Over the whole array of clamps, we decided that the savings of less shrinkage would also be massive as the oxygen is kept out and the majority of the crop is left to be fed to the cows.
Overall, a really interesting day with a group of top-notch Dairy Farmers willing to share their knowledge. Even though farms like Grosvenor are pretty unique we can all learn some tips to take home to make our own businesses more efficient.