Are you born a high achiever or is it something you pick up from those that surround you?
So often the words ‘high achiever’ are said as a negative, but what if we turned that around, that to be a high achiever takes ambition, goal setting and hard work, then THIS would be the truer version of those words.
Mark is a high achiever he has monetary goal he wishes to achieve, because why else would you get up at 3.30am every day to milk cows, if you aren’t being rewarded for it? To strive to be the best farmer he can, producing high quality milk, high yields, healthy cows and being able to reward himself and his family with the best lifestyle he can.
Mark was born into the farming life, taking good grounding from his granny who rented 2 farms, and sold eggs into Chester whilst raising a family. The opportunity to buy her own farm, saw her diversify into selling chickens and to start the dairy enterprise. Savvy business decisions meant a 2nd farm was bought, allowing the 2 sons to farm in their own right, under the one business name, which has led to healthy competition between the two farms.
Lucy, Marks better half, is not from a farming background, has ‘married’ into the farming life and she loves it! Lucy main role is looking after the youngstock, milking and of course looking after Sadie, their daughter who is always with them and is involved in all the jobs – a true childhood of dreams!
You can really see that they both love what they do, and this is seen in the quality of the stock, machinery and the farm, which are all looked after to a high standard.
4 years ago they decided to start using Cross Bred cattle in their all year calving system. They have gone for a Montebeliard x Swedish Red and wish they had done this sooner. Sexed semen is used on the heifers and better cows, and they have seen increased fertility and milk solids and have seen improved health and feet.
Calves are born and then go into an individual pen, where the Stallion Individual Feeder is used with the pink teat. Using the individual milk feeder means that they can ensure the calf has drunk all the milk and is getting 1:2:1 attention and illness such as scours can be isolated and treated. Once they are feeding well, at about 7 days old, they join a group of 5 other calves, based on their size, and get fed milk in a trough with ad-lib course mix. Heifers stay housed until they calve. This system works really well for them, as they can control the feed intake and it saves time and labour.
The calves are tagged with Datamars Tags, and they can’t be more pleased with them, as they rarely ever come out, so much so they don’t freeze brand as they are so confident in the tags doing their job! Heifers are tagged with 1 yellow management tag and 1 coloured, each year has its own colour, for ease of management. Only once the heifer has calved, does her coloured tag get replaced with a yellow tag, and she officially becomes a cow!
The cows are producing milk with excellent fat and protein levels, this is attributed to the good quality grass and maize silage that is produced. They take at least 5 cuts over the growing season and use SafeSil by Kelvin Kave which is a preservative and keeps the silage fresher for longer once it has been fed out. The grass leys are ‘renewed’ every 3-5 years, by direct drilling perennial grasses into the sward, and then ‘topped up’ every 2 years, this system pays for itself massively and is worth the investment. The fields are rotated from Day and Night fields, with the cows getting disgruntled if they are in the wrong ‘time zone’! By the time the parlour is turned on and a few jobs done the cows have bought themselves in.
3 years ago, all of the grazing fields were re-electric fenced around the field boundaries and a PEL system put in place, to run off the mains. They are really pleased with this system and use the electric fence tester to ensure power if going through and any faults can be found. Before turn out Mark spent an hour checking all the fences and finding any fault, so quick and easy to use. When they need to reduce a paddock size they use the PEL Solar panel, which is reliable, and you know it’s not going to run flat! It just makes life easier.
Lucy is a HUGE fan of the Kiawaka Ladies Storm Coat, as chief scrapper driver, she needs to ensure she is kept warm and dry, and along with her Bib & Brace, this is ensured! Rain runs straight off the coat and the rubber cuffs ensure not water is running down her arms! The length is great as it covered her bum and keeps everything toasty!
The Bib & Brace has been a game changer, it is such good quality and again does the job it is supposed to! Lucy just couldn’t be more pleased with her kit… much to Marks disdain as she raves about it ALL THE TIME!
Everything we have had from KiwiKit has been so good, we’ve never had any issues or needed to send anything back. The staff are all really helpful – which just makes it easy!
Trusting in your ability to achieve your goals, is more than mind-set, it is knowing you can trust in the decisions you make for your stock, trust in the machinery to keep the farm moving and trust in the kit that you use to manage the cattle and to trusting in what you wear to keep you warm and dry! All these decisions make for a well-run farm business.
I know growing up in rural Wales it was all about the magic mushrooms, but smoking weed and farmers… surely not?!
No.. not at all, BUT they are getting addicted to seeing their grass and bank accounts grow!
Rotational Grazing; the New Zealanders have been doing it for years, the dairy lot have caught on and well… its time the beef and sheep farmers got on it and take back control!
Meet the farmer
I met Aled Evans, beef and sheep farmer in West Carmarthenshire who came back from the corporate world to take over 400ha of family farmland. Aled wanted control over his profit, not to be at the mercy of the market or processor and the only way to do this is to Save Money, by cutting the Cost of Production.
Build up your confidence
Start small and build up, gain confidence and grow the addiction of seeing grass grow!
(I thought the addiction to Tractor Porn was bad (no not like that.. literally 16-year-old boys ogling the blue one, the green one, the red one…. No weird positions, unless you are a JCB)) but seeing grass grow… IS addictive!
Aled started by splitting fields into 2 0r 4 paddocks, depending on their size, cattle grazed for 24 hours then moved onto the next fresh paddock….that’s when he saw it… new grass growing, green and lush, with no fertiliser added, and what else was growing well… the cattle and sheep… they were utilising this wonderful ‘free’ feed source… and looking great!!
Upping the game
2 years ago Aled met James Daniels of Precision Grazing at a Farming Connect ‘Prosper from Pasture’ and quite frankly has not looked back! He upped the game, GPS the whole farm to create 0.45ha Cells, that ensure consistency and ease of management. Gone is the manual plate meter and replaced with the bells and whistles of Bluetooth plate meter which sends the data to the mobile phone and then onto the computer where AgriNet works out how much grass you have on farm, days of grazing, growth, too much too little… suddenly there is a plan, a goal, Proactivity!
This is flexible grazing system, grazing a cell from 24 – 72 hours, decisions are made on Supply & Demand, each season can be consistent with the aim of a nice straight line on the graph… no ups and downs here, just a nice straight line of beautiful consistent green grass!
Spend it to Make it….
Spend it or invest it? Investing in rotational grazing will work out about £300/ha, this includes the new water trough system… BUT done correctly, this system will return your investment within a year, with a potential 5 figure saving on winter feed and fertiliser going forward. Surely a no brainer… change the way you say it… Investing in the farm system… investing is powerful, investing is achieving a goal, spending Is wasteful… Invest! Invest! Invest!
We’ve always done it this way…
And it is now time to change. 30 years ago you got £60 a lamb, you still get £60 a lamb and costs have gone up.. so how much is that lamb or beef animal actually making you?
Each year farmers ‘invest’ in feed and fertiliser; you can see it, touch it, you know it does what it says on the bag.. it grows animals and grass…. but get your mind around the fact that an electric fence, efficient grazing, a re-growth period, rain and sun grow copious amounts of grass…. for ‘free!
A hungry cow is an efficient cow…
Pray Tell! Aled houses the cattle over winter, they were housed on the 23 November 2019 after 9 months grazing and are fed their winter ration of silage and rolled barley or bread. They are then drip fed out onto the grazing from early Spring, starting with 4 hours a day, until the grass growth
starts to get ahead of the demand. The cattle then come back in and nibble at some silage. It takes 3 hours of efficient grazing to fill up the cattle, no loitering or walking about the field, full on Olympic style training in the art of grazing, then in to rest and chew the cud! A new Cell each day, winter growth removed and double the grass growth off these semi grazed cells! Winner Winner Grass Clover Ley Dinner!
Working smarter, not harder
Coming back from corporate world to farming, Aled brought with him the corp mentality; management meetings involving all the team and an Agenda, Quarterly reviews, regular Consultant meeting, personal and staff development and time off!
Time Off… yep and by working an 11 hour day, home for tea, every other weekend off, weekend on is only stock checking and time off off for holidays! I know! Cray Cray! But by working smarter and more efficiently a lot can be done in a day and Aled and Llifon are better for it. Work smarter Be smarter (or not so tired that accidents & near misses don’t happen)
What’s your Legacy?
Aled is creating a business he is proud of, one that fulfils his and the team’s aspirations; a successful profitable business. Ego is left at the door, working the land efficiently means that grass, labour and stock are being utilised to their very best. How does he know this? Benchmarking! Benchmarking stocking & labour units, knowing Live Weight gain and % of grass utilisation and efficiency!
Changes are happening to farming and the red meat industry. Climate change, subsidy reductions, can leave you feeling out of control. But here is a system that gives you back control. Farming is a game of hope, hope of the weather, healthy stock, healthy price, healthy market. But hope does not give control.
What can you control? You control the Cost of Production. The end price you receive is determined by SO MANY factors…. Which you can’t control, only hope for. By reducing costs, growing a ‘free’ nutritious feed source that your animals love to eat, investing in YOURSELF, your SYSTEM, your EDUCATION will give you CONTROL.
YOU are your only obstacle
As with any system it needs YOU – 100%to make it work. It’s scary, there are systems and spreadsheets and technology and investment. There are areas of the farm to look at, (hard) conversations to be had BUT so much to learn, money to be made, free time to be had. Farming is a lifestyle but it is also a business. Don’t let the lifestyle just be about work, let it be about family, friends and enjoyment.
Rotational Grazing (in my mind) is a no brainer!
There are great companies there to help you, Farming Connect for free education, Precision Grazing consultnats, Datamars for ALL the gear and AgriNet for your software.
Thank you Aled Evans for his time, for showing what can be done, how to create a legacy, develop the ‘next generation’, sharing the gift of conversation, education and inspiration.
Thank you to Datamars for sending me ‘On Tour’ to Wales and providing all the gear and the ideas to all those amazing farmers who are getting involved in electric fences, solar powered electricity, water troughs and waterproofs all in the name of Rotational Grazing and a great farm business!