Survivability with low cost of production is a key business aim for Blandys Farm, where maximising yield from homegrown forage is key to profitability.

Andrew Allan manages the 365 ha joint arable and dairy enterprise in Berkshire for E&DG Stevens. The 440-cow dairy enterprise is managed as two separate 220-head herds, aiming to be as profitable as possible. To suit the farm and climate, which is on a normal year, a very dry farm, the system at Blandys Farm has been designed to maximise milk production over the winter months.

Andrew explains: “Sixty-six per cent of the annual milk production occurs over the winter months from our autumn-block calving herd, averaging 7,000 litres/cow from 1,800kg concentrate/cow.”

Making sure the system is labour efficient is key to ensure one member of staff plus relief milkers can successfully manage the herd. This, along with maintaining a low cost of production is why self-feed grass and maize silage clamps are in use at Blandys Farm. During the winter, the grazing herd are housed in kennels with unlimited access to forage stored in self-feeding silage clamps.


Earlier in the season, a EuroDairy exchange visit saw French dairy farmers visiting the dairy unit to learn and discuss maximising the use of home-grown forages and the use of self-feeding silage clamps.

Andrew explained: “We harvest 40 ha of grass silage in one silage cut and 35 ha of maize silage to fill the two self-feeding clamps for the winter diets.”

One way Andy and the team ensure that the self-feed clamps help reduce demand on labour even further is through mixing silage with purchased feed as the clamp is being filled.  At harvest, every 12 tonnes of grass silage is mixed with 1 tonne of purchased ground wheat into one of the self-feeding clamps.

The same process is also followed with the maize silage, where 10 tonnes of maize silage is mixed with purchased rapeseed meal. This means that the only other component to the winter diet is a concentrate compound fed via parlour feeders at a rate of 4.5 kg fresh weight/cow/day to support milk production.

Table 1. Winter ration at Blandys Farm

Winter diet


kg Fresh


Maize silage


Grass silage


Rapeseed meal




Compound (27% protein)                                     


Andrew explained: “The secret to succeeding with self-feed is to ensure the top sheet overhangs the forage to make sure that the rainwater run-off avoids the clamp face to reduce wastage.

“The self-feed clamps have been built to allow forage to be clamped to the perfect height, which from our experience is 7ft 6inches, over the 40 meter feed face for 220 cows”.

The clamp height should be no greater than can be reached by the cows who are feeding at the face. In order to optimise forage dry matter intake and because eating from a consolidated clamp requires more effort and time to eat sufficient dry matter, cows should ideally have access to 700 mm/cow. Feed-space width recommendations for cattle of different weights are highlighted in table 2.

Table 2. Feed space width recommendations for cattle of different weights.

Adapted from Red Tractor Dairy Assurance Standards 2017

 Dairy Case Study 1

To prevent wastage, a self-feed system requires some form of feed barrier. The position of the barrier affects the cow’s ability to feed. At Blandys Farm, the electric fence is moved 6 inches per day to provide access to fresh forage.

To allow an easy transition into the self-feed system, all of the replacement heifers, which are home-reared, are trained onto the self-feed system at the youngstock rearing unit before joining the milking herd.

More information on self-feeding systems is available here.