In 1967, Les and Arleen Gould moved from Yeovil in Somerset to Holsworthy in west Devon when they bought Broomhills – a 67 acre dairy farm where they initially started off with 20 cows.

The farm slowly but surely increased and by 2,000, cow numbers had increased to the point where the farm was selling 380,000 litres of milk. Although Broomhills was a predominantly grassland farm, various other crops were tried including wheat, barley and forage maize, but although these crops might prevail in three years out of 10, the heavy soil type in a high rainfall area meant that there was only one crop to grow – grass.

The farm, it’s management and ultimate production proved very successful and recently, Holsworthy Feed Compounders Harpers Home Mix held their annual Open Day where well over 60 local farmers were invited to join the Gould Family for a farm walk and prize giving for Harpers Costings Award Presentations.

The Gould Family moved to Harpers Home Mix in August 2008 when the herd performance was 7,200 litres with butterfats at 3.82%, protein at 3.07% and average daily milk yield at 25 litres. Today – and that’s only after two years – the herd has a rolling average of 9,220 litres, with butterfats at 4.08%, protein at 3.28% and 28.7 litres of milk sold and that, you must agree, is some success story.

Casting your minds back over just a few years, you will no doubt remember that we had a few “iffy’’ summers – some just wet, whilst some have been both wet and cold – so just imagine the outcome on a farm with heavy soil. Fields were poached, cows just stood at the gates and bellowed their hearts out to come in for shelter, milk yields suffered through stress and poor grazing quality and silage clamps had to be opened in order to supplement the feed. In April 2009, the decision was made to keep the cows in full time and for the first summer, the cows were fed zero grazed grass, but after a wet July and August, a further management decision was made to feed a silage based diet 365 days a year in order to obtain and maintain total consistency – the cows now eat a total mixed ration as their base diet and are then topped up to yield above 32 litres with OOPF concentrate. The farm now totals 280 acres of which 53 are rented and currently supports a herd of 166 Holstein/Friesians plus followers – a further 14 heifers being due to calf over the next few months. Only young stock and in-calf heifers are allowed out to graze, the latter being brought inside immediately after calving. There have been significant investments in buildings over the years in order to not only permit 365 day housing of the herd, but also give them adequate space and freedom to exercise. With the farm now being 100% grass, it is vitally important to ensure that these pastures perform as close to maximum output as possible with a strategy being to re-seed 30 acres each year with a long term cut and graze or heavy silage mixture – each mixture containing up to 1 kg of white clover. “All fields that are under-performing through either a high grass weed or broad leaved weed content will be re-seeded,’’ said Paul Gould. ‘’We need leys that will yield consistently well in both quantity and quality – and hopefully over a minimum of six years or more - and you cannot expect that sort of consistency without having a re-seeding policy,’’ he said.

With over 160 cows being housed throughout the year, the quantities of slurry that are produced are quite enormous but rather than let this become a bit of a nightmare in terms of storage and disposal, the Family regard it as a bit of an ‘’earner’’. Slurry is applied to all fields in the early spring using a trailing shoe with a further 2500 gallons per acre after each and every cut. This trailing shoe ensures a very even application and the consistency of the slurry is such that those animals that are grazed can be turned into fields much earlier. Nutrient losses are kept to a minimum and the actual value of slurry produced on farm has resulted in nitrogen only purchases – the P and K status of the soil being maintained at an acceptable soil indices. There are four cuts of silage during the season with the first cut being on or about May 8 – the final cut being during the last week of September. Good management and attention to detail is evident throughout this farm – not just with the cows and their nutrition, but also with the forage.

A fixed formulation blend has been designed by Harpers Home Mix in order to allow the herd to yield to the 10,000 litre target this year. Three separate bunkers are used to store three separate products – a wheat/protein blend, sugar beet and crimped maize – these ingredients are used to supplement the OOP concentrate and also allow the diet to be “tweaked” when necessary. I have used the word consistency before in this article but it is a word that describes, totally, the environment and management in which the herd is kept. Cows do not like change; they respond positively to a diet with as little change as possible; they are kept as stress free as possible and again, react positively.

The herd calves all year round and a tight calving index really does ensure the maximum efficiency from TMR. Although all year round housing may go against the grain with some people, it has to be said that that the cows are healthy, fertility has been improved and they are in a stress free environment – the results of which were clear for everyone to see on the Open Day.

This Family team is successful, but it has been as a Team. Hard work, enthusiasm and, most important of all in today’s agricultural climate – attention to detail has set this unit firmly on course to achieve its projected target of 1.7 million litres of milk sold for this year.