Friday, 30 September 2011

NO RAIN = NO PASTURE. Situation now critical in Midlands

The very dry conditions in the UK Midlands, is currently very serious for pasture based dairy farmers. Little or no rain has fallen in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire or Nottingham for months. On farm pasture is critical & farmers are heavily feeding. Winter feed supply is critical. A look at the monthly rainfall patterns in the UK each month is very revealing.
Not only is rainfall scarce but ground water supplies on some farms are very low. Some on farm water bores are drawing less than 20% of normal supply. Daily water demand is more than twice normal due to the dry diets being fed….concentrates, silage & minimal high DM% pasture. Normal daily water used for dairy cows is approx 2x daily milk production. Some farms using electro pulse meters (LMS systems) have recorded daily use as high as 100litres per cow per day. Water tables are very low throughout the Midlands. If the autumn winter rainfall in these areas is low this will be very serious next summer not only for pastures but for livestock water supply too.
Phil Evans from LMS tells me that the normal pattern of daily water consumption is 40% after am milking & 60% after pm milking. Water use is seasonal & dependent on the diet (DM%)
UK is nowhere near self sufficient in water. Only 38% of total water use is from the UK. A staggering 62% of total water use is actually imported from other countries. So we are very dependent on other countries to successfully manage their fresh water resources. Throughout the world 70% of existing available fresh water is used for irrigation & agricultural/food. The UK is the 6th largest net importer of virtual water in the world.
The water demand of a country is usually expressed as the total water withdrawn from rivers, lakes & aquifers in that country for different sectors of its economy. However this doesn’t equate to the total demand for water as a country as many products including food are imported. The “Water Footprint” of a country or a product like milk is calculated to include both the direct water used & the virtual water associated with that product’s production. Unlike carbon footprints of which there are hundreds of different versions (total shambles!) there is only one agreed water footprint method of calculation.
On farms there are three types of water available…Green water = rainfall (not including runoff which is lost). Blue water = surface & groundwater. Grey water = recycled water including effluent & dirty water.
Globally animal production takes a very big proportion of the total water used. 19% of total livestock water is used by dairy cattle….mainly for feed (drinking water is only a small proportion of the total). The less cereals in the cow diet usually results in less water use. The less imported feed also results in less water being used. It looks as though a total grazing system uses approx 60% of the water of a high input fully housed system of dairying. A massive plus for pasture based dairying.
Globally the Water Footprint for milk is 1000 litres of water used to produce 1 litre of Milk.
On farm nothing crashes milk production more than being short of water. Drinking water is NOT just about water troughs. Rather it’s the combined impact of the water supply, pumps, water pipe diameter & trough size. The biggest on farm problems relate to the circulation/delivery water pipes not being large enough.
The most efficient & lowest cost installation is a ring main system with minimal laterals to the water troughs.
In the UK we tend to take water for granted. In Australia water is gold! Now we find that we are very short of water in some areas.....its very serious! Its very stressful too.
Current UK Pasture Measurements
Situation now critical in Midlands. Can you help with feed?
Contact me if you can help especially if you have organic feed that could be transported into the Midlands. Ring me.
TheAverage Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
Cumbria AFC 2568, growth 44, Summer here at last
West Cheshire, 1774, growth 13, hot windy & dry, feeding anything I can get my hands on.
East Cheshire, AFC 2600, growth 60+
Staffordshire, 1800, growth well below demand, feeding 4kgs conc + 7 kgs silage, Cows drinking 55litres/day
Staffordshire, 2370, gr down from 40 to 24, pastures water stressed. Bores okay but both farm streams dry
Shropshire org, bone dry, 1365, gr 16, demand 30 Grandparents never seen it as dry
Shropshire org, 1850, no growth, no rain since June, Can anyone sell organic feed to me. Desperate!
Shropshire, 2050, gr 28, no rain, Sold empties, lame ones etc cover reducing HELP!
Shropshire, 1750, gr 16, de 10 feel like high input farmer 6kg in parlour + 12kg DM TMR Water now requires the Mains
Herefordshire, 2346, gr 35, de 18, 3mm rain
Herefordshire, 2275, gr 30 de 52, still very dry
Oxfordshire, 2150, gr 30, de 20
Gloucestershire, 2505, gr 50, demand 50,
North Wales, 2303, growth 58, demand 43
South West Wales, 2601, growth 63, demand 44, Heifers AFC 3245, gr 65, de 27
Dorset AFC 2204, growth 62, demand 30

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