Newsletter Spring 2017

Livestock Farming Matters

Helping you make good decisions in tough times

Cleaner, more comfortable cows…just good old fashioned stockmanship

Increasing numbers of farmers who really care about cow comfort and cleanliness are turning away from the various shortcomings of straw, sawdust, shavings, sand and recycled manure solids for cubicle bedding.

These farmers aren’t doing this because it’s fashionable, or an industry expert said they should, or even some new university research has been published. They’re doing it because they know – deep down in their stockmanship subconscious – that it’s simply the right thing for their cows.cows-on-eb

It honours an old fashioned rule that will always hold true, through good and hard times alike: You look after your cows, and they’ll look after you.

The turning point we’re talking about here appears to have been the launch in early 2016 of Envirobed Premium Blend, the combination of dried paper pulp and premium kiln dried sawdust, according to Liz Russell from Envirosystems.

“Together, these two materials create the closest so far to the perfect bedding material for today’s cow housing,” she says. “It is ultra-high absorbency, mopping up urine and leaked milk to keep udders and teats clean.

“Rather than being dragged into the slurry passage, which is a common place observation by farmers about wood shavings or sawdust, it stays where it’s put on cubicle beds. Together with extra fluffiness created by the sawdust, this also means the material goes further than either dried paper pulp or sawdust on their own.”

At Oxclose Farm, Northallerton, animal comfort and cleanliness are paramount in pursuit of high performance and excellent udder health for farmer Neil Bellerby. Neil says Envirobed’s blotting paper absorbency and cushion consistency make a significant contribution.

As you might expect, Envirobed production sites are having to run hard to keep up with orders. To match this growing demand, new manufacturing facilities are being developed in a number of rural locations – including some farms – around the country, one aim being to keep transport costs as low as possible. The drying techniques are designed to create just the right combination of physical properties: Absorbency, cow comfort and on-cubicle retention.

While these new facilities are being developed, to guarantee product availability when you need it, we are asking for as much notice as possible please – ideally around one to two weeks’ before you need your next delivery. In most circumstances, our existing customers find this easy to do because the amounts they use per day are predictable and stable. Of course, this does then allow us to get out short notice emergency loads to you when you’re in need.

To find out more or to place your order contact Envirosystems on 01772 860085 or visit www.envirobed.co.uk.

Don’t get caught out or left behind…keeping pace with arable farming hotshots

At face value, a new grant scheme announced in December to encourage covering slurry stores looks like a good idea.

The gov.uk website (http://bit.ly/2gp5zrI) says, “The scheme offers grants at 100% of the standard rate offered through Countryside Stewardship to pay for slurry store covers…Your application must be received by Natural England on or

before 31st January 2017.”

However, if you regard slurry as an asset rather than a nuisance, this may not be the best move you’ll ever make, according to Liz Russell from Envirosystems.

Liz reports observations from vet Jörn Erri in Denmark – where covered stores are compulsory – that widespread problems can arise when slurry becomes anaerobic and stagnant due to stale or even no air at all in contact with its surface.

Impact on soil health and productivity

In arable farming, healthy soils are all the rage, for very good reason: They produce more plant life and higher yields of saleable crop. The same applies not just to grassland reseeds, but permanent pastures too…it’s just less obvious.

One of the things that soil health depends on is a below-ground population of micro-organisms. In a typical soil, one hectare (2.5ac) is home to about 50 tonnes of these micro-livestock: mainly worms, eel worms, bacterial and protozoa.

Above ground, of course, that hectare can support about two dairy cows. Below ground, the microscopic soil livestock are equivalent to about 67 cows. Without these microbes, the two cows above ground would not get fed. This is why Sally Russell from Envirosystems suggests that soil health will also become a hot topic in grassland farming, where one factor with an important impact is spreading slurry.

“Too often during storage, fibrous material floats to the surface and forms a crust, through which light and oxygen cannot penetrate,” she explains. “Below this, small particles sink and form a sludge at the bottom, with a liquid portion above it.img_4011

“In this zero oxygen environment, which may well be made worse by a cover, anaerobic microbial activity creates acidic, septic and foul smelling conditions in both the liquid and sludge layers.

Clearly, spreading this does contribute plant nutrients and organic matter, but it also inoculates soil with a high loading of potentially damaging anaerobic microbes, washed into the ground as an acidic soup.”

In contrast, Sally reports that, as well as maintaining oxygenated conditions in slurry, the biological treatment Slurrybugs can break up the crust or prevent one forming and helps create uniform consistency from surface to the bottom.

“This means minimal stirring before spreading, reducing markedly the workload and fuel consumption involved,” she explains. “With slurry stores that are only about half full, this is a good time of year to get started with Slurrybugs.”

For advice on treating your slurry, please contact our advisers on 01772 860085 or visit www.slurrybugs.co.uk.