A FARM on the Dorset/Hampshire border welcomed visitors last week. 

Bisterne Farms, based on the edge of the New Forest, hosted an open day on May 22 to celebrate being NMR RADBF Gold Cup winners. 

There were three talk stations at the open day, held by three companies who have been a big part of the success of the Bisterne Farms business. 

Farm business consultant, Oliver Hall, from The Andersons Centre hosted one of the talks. He set up and now facilitates the Contract Farming Agreement (CFA) at Bisterne Farms.

Oliver explained that, whilst CFAs are governed by contract law in this country it is still vital that both parties – the farmer and the contractor - are clear on who is putting in and providing what into the agreement from the off as this will vary in each case.

He added: “For example, the livestock split can be done in a number of ways, at Bisterne there is no depreciation on cows as they self-replace them due to rearing their own replacement heifers on the farm, this came about because of a requirement by Bisterne to maintain a herd of cows that could stay in place should George leave the agreement.”

Piers Badnell from LIC outlined that you need the right cow for the right system. At Bisterne they look for a cow who can maximise the amount of grass she can eat, as energy gathered from grazed grass ends up as milk or milk solids.

First class grazing management includes a few different factors, one of which is managing grass supply to maximise our input. Stocking rate is key with a typical spring calving block looking at a stocking rate of 40-50 cows per hectare.

“The beauty of operating a split block calving system like Bisterne is the ability it creates for us to manipulate demand," said Piers.

"This means when autumn cows are drying off grass is kept in the diet. Whilst it isn’t possible to control growth it is possible to control demand which in turn allows control of average cover.

“This can be done by plate metering or using a grass wedge with the aim being to have all your paddocks at different growth stages.”

Dairy industry analyst, Chris Walkland, shared some positive news about milk prices. He outlined the amount of current investment we are seeing from processors, which only highlights the confidence in UK dairy.

His take-home from the session was that processors and end buyers must not take farmers and milk supply for granted, and we must do what we can to ensure they are aware of how bad weather contributes to the net effect on both land and cows.

“Latest market reports show butter prices trading higher as a result of a firm GDT with liquids going further," he added. 

“Prices will only trade up from here and they all point in the same direction. There are much better times ahead, and whilst a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have, now I can see 40p in the making.”

The 2024 NMR RABDF Gold Cup Competition has now launched. Applications are open until Monday, July 22.