Sustainability isn’t just a buzz word at Stowell Farms, it’s an ethos that runs throughout the business, from cow welfare to feed sourcing and cropping.
It’s what makes the farm one of the country’s top performers on the Arla Sustainability Incentive, which supports and rewards farmers for reducing their carbon footprint. For the first quarter of the year, they received 61 points, compared to a national average of 48.
Multiple factors contribute to such a high score. This includes reducing bought-in fertiliser requirements by grazing sheep on winter cover crops prior to maize drilling, and applying digestate from a 500kw anaerobic digester. Lucerne is also grown for its nitrogen fixing abilities and high forage protein levels.
Sustainability Manager for Mole Valley Farmers, Matt Witt works closely with the farm team, together with our Nutritionist Kim Glover, to balance the diet in order to meet production and environmental goals. For example, soya inclusion is always under review and its use weighed against cost, nutritional benefit and any Arla environmental rewards for avoiding its inclusion.
“Thanks to the quality protein in lucerne, going forward we should be in a position where we can buy less total protein and increase protein efficiency which will be worth more bonus points on the Arla Sustainability Incentive,” explains Matt.
Farm Manager, Neil Ridgway believes fulfilling the cows’ nutritional requirements and maximising comfort will translate into a more efficient, sustainable system. He adds: “Me and Matt are both on the same page. Everything we do starts with the cow.”
With that in mind, Neil instigated a whole system overhaul which has seen the rotary parlour replaced with 12 Lely A5 Astronaut milking robots.
“The whole system needed a revamp to focus on the cow. The main driver at the heart of this is cow and calf welfare,” Neil explains.
Initially, milking frequency through the rotary had been reduced from three, to twice a day to ease pressure on the cow. The next step was adopting a free-access, voluntary milking system to minimise standing times and allow cows to express their behaviour. The first robot was installed in October 2022. Since then, Neil and Herd Manager, Chris Gowen believe the whole herd is happier and more relaxed. Splitting cows into groups of around 105 for each pair of robots and collecting individual cow data at each visit also allows closer monitoring of health and performance.
Low stocking rates and comfortable, Wilson Agri cubicles also help cow welfare and longevity. This is something the team is looking to improve further through breeding, with a particular focus on feet, legs and mammary.
The team focuses on cow comfort and consistency throughout, but no more so than in the dry period. Feed is pushed up regularly, fans are used to reduce heat stress and emphasis is placed on delivering a consistent diet, aided by Matt.
Cows calve in dedicated, immaculate calving pens with soft, rubber mattress flooring and are given a fresh cow drink immediately upon calving. They then move into a low stocked fresh cow group and receive AppleBoost MPG through the robot for the first three weeks to reduce ketosis risk.
Well done team! We look forward to finding out more. . .
Find out more about dry cow management at Stowell