Achieving more from less with dairy and arable collaboration by Johnny Alvis
Sponsored by The Trehane Trust and Dartington Cattle Breeding Trust
In 2010 my family business built a new milking facility. To make the best use of this expensive milking machinery more cows were added to the system, requiring more feed to be imported onto the farm, resulting in more waste being applied to a relatively small area. This, combined with cheesemaking waste also spread over the same land will , if we are not careful, result in an overload of nutrition, and at some times in the year create soil condition problems.
The aims of the study are
· To see if there are any contracts or operating procedures where the costs of the material imported onto the farm could be offset by the value of the waste products produced.
· Could these be exported to nutrient-deficient sites off farm?
· To reduce the amount of inorganic minerals brought onto the site.
· To understand what restrictions and help have been placed on farmers by government departments that could be adopted, or situations that need to be avoided.
On my main study topic tours I visited the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Poland, as well as sites in the UK. I chose these countries for their varied dairying styles and arable enterprises to see if there were relationships between the two types of farming that could be developed and incorporated into our systems in South West England. As an aside to my main study topic tours I undertook a Nuffield Australia Global Focus tour of Australia, India, Qatar, Turkey, France, The Netherlands and USA. Whilst this was not part of my study tour some reference may be made to these places in my report.
There are very few formal agreements between farms which operate together for more than a particular growing season and they mostly all rely on the goodwill of both parties and the financial viability of each operation. There is one contract that it may be possible to introduce into the UK from the USA involving a contract with a broker, meaning that the buyer and seller are not at the mercy of each other’s financial situations and their personal preferences.
Clearly there are also values to the manure from the dairy herd. This needs management in the form of storage and application to realise the best onsite and offsite value to the land. Other parties contributing to the feed imported to the dairy farm could also benefit from this organic nutrition. The correct use of nutrients will offset purchased inputs. Considerate management will reduce the impact large dairy farms are perceived to have on the environment.