SINCE January 2004 when I first started with Southwest Farmer, my monthly offerings have always been entitled ‘Forage Diary’ – with the content being linked either directly, or indirectly, toward forage.

I have been bleating continuously about the need to maximize both quality and quantity of your home grown forage – extolling the virtues of early forage maize varieties, berating you about your general apathy and complacency with regard to improving grassland and also highlighting the opportunities for both forage and catch crops. In a nutshell the message has been ‘’Forage = Profit’’ – the more you can produce from your own farm and the more you can improve upon its quality, the more you will improve your margins and overall profitability. That is the message now and over the years, it hasn’t changed one bit!! It’s the same today, as yesterday and tomorrow. Maximize your forage quality and quantity and you will have a parallel effect on profits. However, there is still a bit of a ‘but’ – some of you may have sensed it coming. Fast forward to the autumn when the harvesting has been completed and everything has been safely gathered in – additive applied, rolled, sheeted down and ensiled to the best of your ability – but it’s still not enough is it? And that’s where your feed compounder steps in.

I have always maintained that your feed compounder’s role is one of a complementary nature. Whatever you produce in the way of home grown forage, your compounder should be working out its nutritional value and then advising on a feed that will provide the shortfall that your herd requires in order to keep both production and health to its optimum – a view that I am pleased to say is shared by Crediton Milling Co. Ltd – an independant family owned company that manufactures and distributes animal feeds throughout the south west.

Crediton Milling is based at Fordton Mills, Crediton, was formed in 1964 by Ken Gulley and produced a wide range of animal feeds for distribution to farms in mid Devon. The company was built on service, reliability and quality and is something that they are continually striving toward.

The company philosophy is to provide their customers with a product that will fulfil every expectation from advice through to feeding. Their business is very much customer led with every effort being made to make their customers more successful and, ultimately, more profitable as that tends to reflect on their own business at Crediton.

The company have a dedicated team of feed specialists who offer an in depth nutritional package throughout their trading area in the west country and once the harvesting has been completed, work then starts on formulating the correct and most appropriate feed for individual farms. Samples are taken from each and every clamp on the farm, despatched to a laboratory for a full nutritional analysis and then a feeding programme is worked out which takes into account the quality of home grown feed, maintenance and projected milk production – or meat, as the case may be!

The performance of the herd is closely monitored as is the overall health and with clamps being sampled on an on-going basis, tweaks to the feeding programme can be made in order to maintain the herd’s performance at the most optimum level.

First and foremost, the farm produces it’s own forage and then it’s up to the compounder to produce a feed that fully complements what is already there – and not only will that vary from farm to farm, it will vary from year to year on the same farm. The level of expertise within this company extends way beyond that of animal nutrition as a number of their feed specialists are more than comfortable in discussing appropriate forage production for individual farms – indeed, they actively encourage the increased use of home grown forage – their specialists engaging in such conversations as early as the spring when they started to foresee potential problems with summer grazing. Large acreages of grassland had faired rather badly throughout the past winter and just were not capable of producing either the quantity or quality that was necessary to fill the first cut silage clamps and provide aftermath summer grazing. Some farmers heeded their advice on trying to rejuvenate their grassland by over-seeding and also planting a catch crop of kale or stubble turnips and although there have been areas where there just was insufficient rainfall to even stimulate germination, most farmers who tried to do a bit of ‘crystal ball gazing’, anticipated problems and actually did something about it, are probably breathing that little bit easier than those who did nothing, naval gazed and subsequently opened up the first cut silage clamps.

We are now at or about the 1st. September and that 200 day winter is not too far away is it? How much silage have the cows already eaten and what have you already done or are going to do in order to offset the problem? Here are a few ideas that Crediton Milling are already proposing, in the hope that one or two just might fit in with your own regime, because and please believe me, you’re going to need that extra grub!!

September Plantings: Continue as much as possible with the re-seeding strategy. If a field of grass is clapped out then you must sort it. Other September sowings could include forage rape which can be grazed from December onwards or forage rye (Plantings can continue in October).

October Plantings: Getting a bit late now for the conventional re-seed, especially with clover, but getting Italian Ryegrass in behind forage maize has to be a serious consideration, as would winter wheat which would provide both an arable and wholecrop option.

There are never two farms that are identical in either production or needs. Management of both herds and forage production will always vary from one farm to another and Crediton Milling are very much of the opinion that there will never be a situation of ‘one fits all’ – the required summer or winter ration invariably being tailor made for individual farms, with attention to detail being one of the reasons behind the success of this company.

Quality is always uppermost in most farmers minds when purchasing their winter feeding ration and Crediton Milling’s strategy of fixed formulations and sourcing as much local grain as possible ensures total confidence in their products. Once a diet has been formulated, the specification and raw materials are fixed for the whole season and with some competitor mills already moving toward a ‘one size pellet fits all’ approach in order to try and maximize mill efficiency, Crediton Milling will continue to promote their philosophy of customer needs and will produce a pellet that suits individual farms and not just the accountant!! Listening to customers, acting on feedback and providing them with what they want is an extremely important part of this company’s strategy.