MORE than 70 farmers have been studying on a North Devon farm the pros and cons of outwintering heifers.
They joined a research day set up by the industry's levy board, Dairy Co, with Harper Adams University, examining the relative benefits of different systems for dairy heifers.
Lifton farmer Rob Uglow has been outwintering his dry cows and heifers for 10 years and has experimented with various winter crops including kale and forage rape.
Rob said that although savings were made in capital costs of shed space, variable costs in the crop husbandry should not be avoided.
"Spending more on protection and establishment of winter crops is advisable and will give you returns in yield," he said.
He currently uses a block grazing system: "With the high rainfall we have had recently, we have found that grazing in blocks on our fodder beet reduces the soil damage as animals do not pace the line of the fence that is found with strip grazing."
After the visit to Rob's farm DairyCo's research and development manager, Debbie McConnell, said: "We are examining the suitability of outwintering systems for replacement dairy heifers.
"We are comparing heifers outwintered on either deferred grazing or fodder beet, with those that are housed and we are following these into the first 100 days of lactation to assess any impacts on milk yield, calving, fertility and health. We are also undertaking a comparison of the economics of each system."
For more information visit www.dairyco.org.uk/research-development/production-syste ms/current-projects/out-wint ering-systems-for-replacement -heifers.