Meet the farm manager – Phil Asbury


Phil AsburyWelcome to Clive Hall Farm, which is to be Cheshire’s first Dairy monitor farm.

Clive Hall is a 62 ha farm, operating a spring block calving, grass based system that is currently one of Andrew Fletcher’s (Fletcher & Co) contract farming businesses, with the farm being managed by me, Phil Asbury.

Regular updates from me or farm meetings facilitator Leslie Innes about progress on the farm will be posted below throughout the year…

For further information on how to get involved or attend future meetings, contact Leslie at Reaseheath College Tel: 01270 625 131 ext 308 Mobile: 07788 721 943 Email:

Spring calving, “magic day” and fluorescent paint

THIS spring we will calve 210 cows in 11 weeks and rear 95 heifer calves to 90 -110kg in 10 weeks.

Spring calving

Spring calving

One of the main objectives of this monitor farm is to look at the principle of lean manufacturing – after all, that’s what we do! All farms are a production line of some sort whether it be milk, meat or grain.

Mapping out the road ahead
We want to look intensely at every single thing that happens on the farm and map out the thought process behind all the major decisions.

We will make a road map that aims to make the farm even more efficient and profitable, and will also help other farming businesses look at their own farms and become better through being involved in the monitor farm experience.

The year so far…
Anyway, I will give you a run down on what has happened this year so far. As I said before, Clive Hall is spring-calving, so from December 23 2009 every cow on the unit was dry – so no cows to milk over Christmas and New Year – happy days.

Dry cows are housed on sand cubicles and fed self-feed silage. As they start to get close to calving the cows are moved onto straw bedded yards and fed good quality hay. The start of calving is February 1st. By Feb 7th, the calved cows were out at grass day and night. You mean ‘so and so’ I hear you say, but they’ve got a leather and fur coat- so what’s the problem?

By Feb 21st 110 of the 210 cows and heifers had calved. The animals that are at grass are allocated 8 to 10kg dm/ cow plus 5kg/dm concentrate and 1 to 3kg/dm of silage if they want it.

We aim to graze 33% of the farm in the first 30 days from turn out – as more and more animals calve, the larger the area we allow the cows to graze each day. This spring has been slow as regards grass growth so we have kept the grazing cows limited to 8kg/dm of grazed grass 5 kg/dm concentrate and 3kg/dm silage.

“Magic Day” and “Rocket Fuel”

Regrowth like rocket fuel

Regrowth like rocket fuel

The whole farm was grazed by April 8th which coincided with magic day. That’s the day the farm actually grows more grass than the cows can harvest.

By eating the old grass that’s been there all winter, the regrowth now is like rocket fuel – it’s better than anything your rep can put in your feed hopper.

It’s great to know that we’re actually starting to graze fields for a second time this year before most of Cheshire has even turned a single cow out. I did keep the milkers in for two days when we had the snow because they couldn’t physically get the grass, but as the snow disappeared they were pushing at the gates to go out again.

Late March and the wet weather was a pain. Total farm cover was down to 1639 kg/dm/ha and with very little silage left in the pits, a big load of bale silage was bought from up Leek, Staffordshire to get me through that period .The cows have easily made residuals of 1300 on all but 1 of my 31 paddocks, without too much loss of body condition.

We started the Second grazing round on the 8th April with farm cover at 1700 kg/dm/ha- still a little low but I am confident the farm will gain cover with the good weather and longer days.

Problem cows and metri check

Our focus areas now are dirty cows and non cycling cows – with only 6 cows left to calve as of April 12th. Ed Hays, our vet from Wright and Morten (a fellow Liverpool supporter), came on the 8th April to go through any cows or heifers that had problems at or soon after calving.

It’s so important that any problem cows are sorted out now so they at least have some time to clean up and start to cycle ready for the 1st May when we start to A.I.

Part of the daily morning routine through February and March has been to shed cows out and metri check them for metritis and treat any problem cows with either metricure, excenel or tylan depending how bad they are. Any cows that are fine and don’t have a problem have a white tail tape and are left to get on with it – thankfully I’ve used lots of white tape!

Painting and De-horning

Fluorescent stripes

Fluorescent stripes

This week (10th April) we tail painted all the 205 calved cows- quite a sight with a fluorescent green stripe on the back of every cow. Again, this helps to identify those non-bullers and they will be vetted again at the end of the month.

Reaseheath students have been a great help this spring as they have de-horned most of my heifer calves. I’ve got two groups of 40 outside using the milk bar trailer behind the quad bike. These calves will be shipped away when they are 90 to 110 kg to be reared, and the best ones will return in two years as replacement calving heifers.

So it’s been busy over the last three months but the weather has warmed up and spring has sprung at last. There will be lots more to report as the year goes by.

Phil Asbury