Graham Parks

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Grassland management is key to the success of Graham Parks’ business, which is based on buying-in beef calves from dairy herds and finishing them on a mainly forage-based diet.

The county council farm extends to 129 hectares (320 acres) of permanent grassland and is home to 800-head of cattle.

Cattle are finished at an average of 310kg deadweight at 24-32 months old and are sold to either Dunbia or Honest Burgers. Calves are housed until two weeks after weaning and some older animals are wintered inside.

Graham says: “We have adopted a rotational block grazing system which has improved the quality of grass grown and also significantly extended the grazing season.”

All fields are electric-fenced and temporary electric fences are used to split fields. All fields have a concrete water trough in the middle of the field.

The fields are on a 21- to 25-day grazing round and are all grazed twice in spring before some are dropped out of the grazing round for silage, which is only made from surplus grass production.

Rotational grazing has enabled the grazing season to be extended from February to November, which has reduced wintering costs.

About 8 per cent of the farm is down to herbal leys, which are not grazed as frequently and Graham says they are good for biodiversity.

Grass is measured weekly with a plate meter and Graham is also recording the performance of the herbal leys to assist with future decision-making. At turnout, if covers are less than 2,500kg of dry matter/ha (1,012kg DM/ acre), grass is considered too good for the cattle and is allowed to grow a little more. Once there is enough grass, calves go on to the paddock system in front of the groups of heifers and bullocks.

At the start of the season, cattle are moved daily, but once the grass is growing, they are moved to twoto three-day breaks.

Ensuring cattle have top quality grass every day is important and Graham is aiming for 12.5-13ME grass all summer and says excessive field operations are not necessary to achieve this.

A focus on forage is enabling him to stock more animals on the same acreage. Last year it was 2.4 livestock units per hectare (5.9 units per acre), but this year is expected to be 2.5 units per hectare (6.2 units per acre).