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Paddock grazing helping dairy farm capture nearly two thirds of milk from forage

A WELSH dairy farm is capturing 4,100 litres of milk from forage since improving grassland management.

Bryn Farm at Tremeirchion, Denbighshire, is farmed by three generations – Ivor Hughes, his son, Dilwyn, and grandson, Aled Potts.

Aled joined the business after first studying agriculture at Llysfasi College and later dairy farm management at Reaseheath College and was keen to apply some of the knowledge he had gained.

The business is in the process of changing its milk production profile from all year-round calving to an autumn block and systems have been put in place to capture more value from the grass grown on the 81-hectare (200 acre) holding.

To inform his decision making on grass management, Aled secured a place on the Farming Connect Prosper from Pasture programme at the beginning of 2020; he is now a member of its Advanced Dairy Group.

“We wanted to make sure that we were making full use of grass in the cow diet,” says 27-year-old Aled.

Cows were previously at grass on a strip grazing system but, with assistance from Precision Grazing, the facilitators for the 2020 Farming Connect Prosper from Pasture programme, 23 paddocks were created; some are 1ha for 24-hour grazing and other 0.5ha for 12 hours.

“We are targeting 100 cows so that’s the number I had in mind when we created the paddocks,” says Aled.

He is currently running 80 Friesians so some of these paddocks were taken out of the rotation for silage in the 2020 grazing season.

The herd is currently averaging 7,200 litres of milk per cow/year at 4.4% butterfat and 3.56% protein with 4,100 litres being produced from forage.

The farm also runs a flock of Texel-cross ewes, numbers have been halved to 200 as cow numbers are increasing.

Half the flock lambs before Christmas and the remainder in mid-January, to ensure there is plenty of grass for the cows at turnout.

Aled measures the grass weekly with a plate meter during the grazing season, to inform his decision making.

“We didn’t manage the grass as well as we do now, we would be ranching the fields and used guesswork to work out where they would be grazing next,” he says.

“We now know which paddock we will be grazing in seven days’ time and, if we have too much grass, we know to take paddocks out of the rotation.”

Aled makes good use of the ongoing support he receives through the Prosper from Pasture programme. “I have come to realise that there is no such thing as a silly question, it is always better to ask and get the right advice, I just need to pick up the phone to the adviser.”

He says that the programme has made him braver in his decision making.

“I would 100% recommend it to others, we are getting much more from our grass and that is good for our cost of production,” he says.

A new application window for Prosper from Pasture runs from 26 October to 26 November 2020. To be eligible to apply, applicants must have a recent Nutrient Management Plan and if they need assistance with this, they are advised to contact their local Farming Connect development officer.

Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

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