Concentrates are only supplied via second-hand dosators when the cows are in the milking parlour; each cow gets an equal amount; in the summer usually not more than half a kg of concentrate to lure the cows, in winter a daily limit of six kg per cow. A Bale Distribution Wagon supplies the cows with plenty of silage in the long troughs, plus rolled grain, silage maize, rapeseeds and minerals.
As soon as the grass starts to grow in February, the cows are led to pasture. Not that a full cut has grown by then; the fields are fairly long by winter. This early growth of grass is a result of the soft maritime climate that is characteristic for this part of England.
The cows are supplementary fed until the 'magical day', as Mark Pilkington calls it: the day the net grass growth exceeds the cow's daily intake. Usually that is in the middle of April. "From that moment on we remove almost the entire concentrate supply; the cows are only fed with a small amount of concentrate to lure them into the milking parlour."
Most pastures have a size of 2.5 hectares, some 4-5 hectares. "We generally provide the cows with a fresh field every morning and evening.
When they don't eat a pasture bare enough, we let a hundred cows go into that field."
In June the average grass growth is about 85 kg dry matter per hectare per day. However, it may also be 30 kg and it is just as likely to be 140. Matt manages by supplying extra concentrates for a number of days or by withdrawing parcels from rotation and mowing them. "You shouldn't provide cows with more than 2,700-2,800 kg dry matter, otherwise they will leave too much uneaten."
As this often concerns merely 5-10 hectares at a time, silage is wrapped in round bales. "That's work for the contract worker. We own just one tractor, which is permanently placed in front of the bale distribution wagon in winter and doesn't do many other things than mowing grass in summer." In June they mow a lot of parcels just before the cows enter them, in order to remove spots of tall grass. That is a rather strange appearance, but the cows eat that light cut as long as they aren't given too much at a time. By moving the fence wire this is easily arranged.
The pastures, 127 hectares in total, meander like an elongated ribbon between the house with young cattle stable and the milking parlour with stables for the cows.
The cows walk the up to two kilometres long distance between pasture and milking parlour each time. Such distances make the existence of a good track important. That is why the Pilkingtons invested about €80,000 in concrete tracks when they started leasing the farm: 3.5 kilometres long, 3 metres wide.