Further sustainable systems on the way at Walford Farm

August and September have been extremely busy at Walford. The farm and college have been buzzing with activity. The new students have arrived along with our autumn calves.

Bronwen Bray, head of the Walford Campus
Bronwen Bray, head of the Walford Campus

As always the weather has brought some extra challenges. These are particularly busy months for Walford Farm and North Shropshire College.

Our students have been working closely with the farm team to support the block calving with all of our level three students now having completed full days of farm duties supporting the calving and milking.

For everyone who has been following our progress, we are pleased that despite the considerable challenges we are all facing, caused by shifting weather patterns and continued rises in feed, bedding, materials and fuel costs, we have managed to maintain and increase our profit margin for the third year in a row.

The increased milk price and lower cost system along with really great cow and calf health and performance have been essential.

This will allow us to start to develop further sustainable systems on the farm.

The calf performance has been excellent. It is really important to us that the calves are healthy and that survival rate is as high as possible. We calved 90 per cent of our calves in six weeks with 72 dairy heifer calves born.

They are thriving, with growth at 1.25kg per day against the national average of 0.9kg. This means they can cope better later in life and will manage well over winter.

The dry weather had an impact on maize this year with lower than expected yields. In contrast, our silage cuts this week have been really good with 270 tonnes in the clamp which will now see us over winter and beyond.

As with all farms we are continuously reviewing our set up. The team have just finished re-seeding parts of the grazing platforms and for next year’s silage cuts.

Our grass last year looked a bit too sparse so we have chosen a thicker and denser triploid/diploid mix which should also be a bit more resilient and help keep feed costs down.

We are also planning to increase herbal lays which will help nitrogen fixing, reduce the amount of fertiliser needed and support deeper rooting and water retention.

The students last year did extremely well with nearly all students achieving their qualifications and over half of our agriculture and equine students achieving high grades.

Shortly, we will have some extra awards going out to several of our level three agriculture students who achieved the Carr’s Billington Calf rearing and nutrition certificates last year.

We are also excited that our Walford Equestrian Centre has gained approval as a British Horse Society examination centre, with many of our students achieving their BHS qualifications last year in addition to over 95 per cent achievement rates on their main programmes.

Our open event for the college courses is Saturday, October 15 and we have another LIC open event for farmers on October 26. If you want to know more please go to our website and the LIC Walford monitor farm webpage.

Bronwen Bray is head of the Walford Campus at Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College

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