Alltech Navigate helps Adam Henson in mission to farm sustainably
The Cotswolds is famous for its glorious landscape of gently rolling hills and quintessentially English towns and villages built from honey-coloured stone. Nestled among these is the Cotswold Farm Park, set up in 1971 by Joe Henson to help protect rare breeds of farm animal.
Adam Henson, a well-known TV personality, followed in his father’s footsteps and is passionate about sustainable and authentic farming. Cotswold Farm Park has expanded and developed over the years and is now a global attraction, welcoming thousands of visitors from all over Britain and the world. In springtime, the “Live Lambing” event is especially popular with schoolchildren, who are excited to see lambs and goat kids being born. Alongside the farm park is also a sizeable farming enterprise operared under the Henson & Andrews Ltd. name, which includes 500 breeding ewes and 1,000 acres of arable.
Helping stock thrive by focussing on feed-out
In 2018, Henson & Andrews decided to invest in a KEENAN diet feeder based on the positive experiences farm manager Mike Caunter had using a KEENAN MechFiber320 while consulting for a local commercial Hereford beef unit. The accuracy of feeding provided by the KEENAN controller was generating great results with both the cattle and sheep on the farm.
“Using a diet feeder, to start with, is a different way of feeding out,” explained Mike. “It took us a little while to get used to how to do it and how to do it in the most efficient way. It took time to get used to the machine, but when you realise that you are feeding a lot more in one go and are only using it every 2–3 days, you realise that overall it is time saving.
“We’ve found that it’s been really beneficial for the cattle — we have turned out our growing cattle the best they’ve been this winter. The fertility has been better than ever before — the heifers have been bulling before turn-out, very noticeably, which did not happen in previous years. We feed all types of cattle with the diet feeder; calves, growing stock, a few dry cows and cows with calves at foot.
“We also use it for the sheep flock — we’ve been able to include maize into their diet, which has made them very milky. Before, we were on a bale system. Because of the KEENAN diet feeder, we can use TMR (total mixed ration), so this has made a huge difference in the amount of milk the sheep have when they come to lamb.”
Combatting waste through Alltech® Navigate™
Denis Dreux, InTouch senior feeding specialist, is a regular visitor and an integral part of the success of the KEENAN system on the farm. With feed being the single biggest variable cost on-farm and linked to two-thirds of the average carbon footprint, it became increasingly obvious that Cotswold Farm Park could further benefit from the Alltech® Navigate™ advisory service.
Launched in 2019, Alltech Navigate is a free, on-farm service designed to improve feed waste and input utilisation.
So, one bright winter’s afternoon in December 2019, an Alltech Navigate specialist joined Denis to visit the Cotswold Farm Park and carry out an on-farm assessment. As sustainable and authentic farming is a key mission of the farm, Mike Caunter was keen to see how they could combat waste and increase efficiencies from an environmental perspective.
Discovering opportunity during storage
Home-grown forage is the most cost-effective feedstuff on any farm, but some of the most substantial losses are found in the making, storage and feeding of it.
The focus of this visit was assessing silage stored in the clamp and an Ag-bag for temperature, dry matter, pH, density and visual signs. The assessment on the Ag-bag showed wastage of only £805, which was an excellent result. This was due to a little mould on the face of the silage, with just some waste across the top, and temperatures indicating aerobic stability.
Following analysis of the assessed figures, Mike Caunter received practical advice on minimising waste during silage production on his farm. These guidelines were to:
- Aim to mow the grass at 9.30 a.m. to maximise optimum wilting conditions.
- Ted grass out within 30 minutes of mowing, as wilting is five times faster in the first two hours.
- Leave a 7-cm stubble height for airflow for wilt and rapid regrowth.
- Discard all spoilage (such as any mould) from the pit.
These actions will help to retain more of the ‘true protein’ locked up in bound amino acids that animals can convert to meat and milk more efficiently.
To book your own Alltech Navigate appointment, contact 01780 764 512 or your local Alltech ruminant manager.