Every generation of farmer has had different opportunities and therefore different decisions to make, be it taking advantage of grants to establish a suckler herd, to improving grazing land by making fields bigger or by introducing continental cross cattle. Today as subsidies and markets change many are taking it all back to basics and simplifying the system to improve profit and lifestyle.
Will Evans, 4th generation farmer at Hendreseifion near Machynlleth, along with his wife Nia and 3 young sons, is taking a different approach to the farm than his father and grandfather, wanting to work smarter, not harder whilst aiming to bring a better balance to the family, work, well-being and the bank balance as government incentives lessen and change.
‘I like to think we weren’t lazy before, but wonder if we were busy without needing to be THAT busy’.
10 years ago Will received a HCC Scholarship, which took him to South America to see cattle finished off grass, even then, something was not sitting right with him, one being that Australia, America and South America took our Hereford genetics to grow beef and finish off grass, and we moved to continental breeds and finished on concentrates. This started some changes on the farm, a move away from Lim X Belgium Blues to a Stabiliser suckler herd, tweaks to the sheep flock, and time ticked on and they continued to do their best.
Eventually Will invested his time, joining the Farming Connect ‘Profit from Pasture’ course which introduced him to James Daniel and Rhys Williams from Precision Grazing, along with other independent expert speakers on grassland and soils. the course really opened his eyes to what could be done with pasture.
Filled with confidence in Precision Grazing, Will knew they were the right team to bring onto the farm to help make the big changes required. The initial conversation of where the farm wanted to go and how PG could help them get there, saw some pretty bold thoughts; get rid of the suckler herd, sell the machinery, use contractors and most importantly; keep it simple.
‘We thought we had already narrowed our costs down, introducing the Stabiliser cow, finishing off grass, however by taking a whole systems approach Rhys has helped us get the input costs down even further’.
It’ll come now… next year it’ll come good
‘We felt we were on stand still going, nowhere’
They started by reviewing the accounts using Xero accounting software, which meant they could really dissect the costs of each enterprise down to the last £1 and determine what was actually making money. That was the start, Rhys helped them to make a plan based on improving grazing management and pasture productivity to off-set some of their input costs.
Precision Grazing really have the farm and families interests at heart, they have moved us forward and we feel we are now getting the rewards from our their hard work with the finances and farm in a much healthier place.
In his wildest dreams Will never thought he could bring Kiwi X dairy heifers to a block of land 800ft above sea level. Quite the view, the trees growing on an angle show the extremes, traditionally set stocked with sheep and cattle; finding water where they could, now it has been converted into a successful paddock grazing system which is about to go into its second rotation.
The land had been rested for 2 months, which was longer than Will anticipated, so a good wedge had grown, but in hindsight this was invaluable during the dry summer we’ve had. Kiwitech fencing system was used, 3 strands of wire cutting the block in half, this semi-permeant fence provides power to feed a pair of temporary electric fences used to create the 1-2 day paddocks, the size of which is varied according to pasture available. Currently the 125 R2 heifers require 0.7ha per day. A 5000 litre water tank is fed from the spring, and blue pipe goes all the way down to the lower paddock, with Kiwitech water hydrants feeding off it, to feed 2 paddocks with 1 Kiwitech drag trough, this trough holds 100 litres and fills quickly. Having a smaller area to graze means the stock can drink whenever they want, as individuals, as opposed to a herd going off to drink together meaning this small trough can be used (providing flow rate is sufficient).
The difference in the 1st grazed and last grazed paddock is impressive. The last paddock has been grazed, trampled and residue left, the 1st paddock has fresh new growth, having taken advantage of nearly 2 months rest and soil organic matter built up from the trampled grasses, which have taken advantage of the little rain we’ve had.
‘I’m so excited to see what has been done in 2 months, I can’t wait to see what changes will have happened by next year’.
And here is the problem, excited farmers, literally watching the grass grow and improve before their eyes, for the benefit of them, their family, the livestock and their business. A problem, why may you ask, because with this new found freedom of time and finances, they can really get serious about making other beneficial changes and take back control over their farm.
You can’t manage the grassland if you don’t have the right infrastructure
This system is an investment, it does take time and money, it takes help and guidance to get it right, BUT, the benefits soon become apparent. A system that works, makes life easier, is dependable, safe, saves money, improves the health & fertility of your livestock and means investment can be made elsewhere in the business.
Rhys said working with us will cost X – but we’ll save you or make you at least double that to begin with! – once you start it creates a snowball and you are benefiting all the time from the advice received.
Will decided to meet with Precision Grazing once a month, either in person or on-line, as he wanted to make big changes to the business relatively quickly, allowing them to adapt to the situation that is a likely reduction of subsidy payments and rising input costs.
Having someone to hold your hand through the process and be accountable to, has been key in this process, from initial big ideas, setting up the paddock system, sharing data and taking the business forward, Rhys from Precision Grazing has been an integral team player, always wanting the best for Will, his family and farm business.
Another benefit of being part of Precision Grazing has been joining the discussion group, they’ve been benchmarking their figures, and being able to see where you can get to is inspiring Will and others, whilst being able to learn from each other and see what has worked and what hasn’t. The language used is also changing, looking at soil biology, as opposed to fertiliser, kilos and pounds per hectare, not pounds per hd. Focusing on pasture first changes the way you look at things and opens your eyes to new systems and a new way of thinking.
Any job needs a reward, but that reward has been missing from farming for many years. Here is a system that you can reward yourself with a healthier bank balance, a better way of life, but it all needs to be earnt and worked at. Will knows how lucky he is to live here at Hendreseifion, the farm, the lifestyle, but he believes as farmers we need to stop taking it for granted;
‘You can’t just have it or be it, you have to work at it to be here and work the land and doing what we are doing is earning our place here’.
It does need to be financially viable; it needs to be worked at, smarter and simply, and this is what Precision Grazing can help you achieve.
Hearing Will say he has the love of farming again was so great to hear, taking pleasure from moving cows through the paddock system, and rearing an animal to the high spec the owner wants them, is making him very happy, coupled with a clear vision of where he now wants to go and how to create a healthy and sustainable business has bought the joy back into farming.
But this joy has been lost by many, continued stress the strains, feeling helpless, but as farmers you can take that power back, you CAN make positive changes to your business, you CAN change your mindset and you MUST so you can have a healthy, future proof, business.
Precision Grazing is a company that wants the best for you, that can see your business through fresh eyes, here is a company you can have confidence in, and who will back you as far as you want to go. As Will said there is no shame in getting rid of the suckler herd, no shame in making decisions that are best for you and your business and there is certainly no shame in asking for help. Reaching out to ask for help, having someone who wants to have your back is vital in the process, by taking that first step, picking up the phone, with that action you are taking back your power, and giving yourself the freedom of time and money.
Visit www.precisiongrazing today to book your free consultation today!
East of Machynlleth
Flat lying land – improved grazing rising to upland rocky outcrop pastures
25ft – 800ft ASL
125 – Kiwi X dairy heifers – contract rearing
1350 – Improved welsh ewe X HillPro Performance recorded ram
Flock A – Improved Welsh x Performance Welsh ram
Flock B – Old ewes x ram
100 Stabiliser suckler herd and followers – to be dispersed
175 acres rented land – upland – dairy heifers – Precision Grazing system
320 acres – owned – improved grassland – next to be set up to the Precision Grazing system
1000 acres – owned – Snowdonia National Park – Dinas Mawddwi – weaned ewes
450 acres rented land – sheep – moved weekly.
Words and Images by Sian Mercer, My Rural Tribe
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