Home-mixed ration in focus: Peter Cheek

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

Godminster Organic Vintage is one of the country’s most recognisable cheeses with its purple wax cover. Peter Cheek is farm manager at Godminster Organic Farm and responsible for producing the high-quality milk needed for their cheeses.

Godminster extends to around 450 Ha and alongside the main dairy enterprise they grow their own feed grains and milling oats for White’s Oat’s, (contracted with Organic Arable). To support the ethos of the Godminster brand they have a policy of feeding predominantly UK grown feed and source the additional cereals and proteins required from Organic Arable.

The herd is a cross-bred herd, a 3-way cross of Freisian, Normande and Fleckvieh that have been bred for a forage diet, high quality milk and improved fertility. Pete feeds the herd a cereal, pulse and soya mix balanced with forage. Pete focuses on UK grown feed with 1 - 2kg a head per day of imported soya – this is the only imported part of his feed mix. He mill and mixes all feed on farm and it is all fed in feed troughs with no feeding done in the parlour. The average overall cost of feed is £375/t.

The feeding plan at Godminster is geared towards a balance of efficiency, volume and quality. Their approach isn’t to chase yields, but achieve good yields of high-quality milk to produce their great cheese. Under Pete’s management he achieves an average of 6600L of milk with 4.25% butterfat and 3.4% protein per cow, per year. They also have a keen focus on keeping animal welfare at a very high standard. Domestic sourcing is important to Godminster and by working with Organic Arable Pete ensures he is buying UK grown feed and knows exactly which farm his feed is coming from in the UK. “It’s pretty simple to me”, comments Pete, “if we are in control of our own feed we know what’s in it and how our cows should perform. Buying a ration in means you lose control of what your cows are eating and if performance changes you don’t know whether it is the feed or another management issue that is causing the change. Controlling our feed is a valuable management tool.”

Pete works with Tom Tolputt of South West Farm Consultants as his consultant. Tom supports the farm sourcing policy and formulates accordingly ensuring that the Godminster herd are always getting a well-balanced feed. Tom visits regularly to assess the herds health and to see how the herd is performing. These regular visits provide Pete with an extra set of eyes on the herd and can help pick up any gradual irregularities in the herds weight, energy levels, milk production etc. It is easier to pick up these changes for a critical visitor than by Pete and his farm team who sees these cows every day and may therefore miss subtle changes.

Pete would love to be able to replace the small amount of soya he uses with high quality UK sourced protein such as Oil Seed Rape or Lupins. He shares Organic Arable’s wish to see livestock and arable farmers working more closely to improve understanding of what crops livestock farmers require to improve their usage of UK grown feed crops. He believes it is the easy option for feed companies to buy commodity crops from abroad but as we all need to move towards cutting the carbon-footprint of our farming business such supplies will become less acceptable to milk and meat buyers who need to consider the impact of their sourcing.

Pete believes that bi-cropping can be part of the answer to spread the risk of tricky crops such as beans. If beans are grown alongside wheat, oats or barley and they don’t yield well the farmer still has a decent crop to sell thus reducing the risk of a loss-making crop.

At Organic Arable we’re happy to help livestock farmers exploring on-farm milling rather than purchasing compound feeds. Please give us a call on 07980 955490 or complete our Grain Quotation Form - we look forward to working with you.