Grassland management

Aled Picton Evans produces beef and lamb on a grass-based system near Whitland, Carmarthenshire. The farm has a 52 hectare (ha) Technograzing platform for cattle and sheep. Aled and brother Iwan are the Farmers’ Weekly beef farmers of the year for 2021. The farm is part of a grassland research project HCC and other organisations are funding - GrassCheckGB.

What we’re doing

“Our ultimate aim with both livestock systems is to get as much output from grazed grass
as we possibly can, to ensure the quality of production while minimising costs.

“It is widely accepted that grass is the cheapest feed available for livestock farmers in Wales so it makes perfect sense to maximise its contribution to our animals’ diet.’’

Farming system

Lamb is produced from a flock of 700 New Zealand Romney and Highlander ewes while around 325 dairy beef cattle are finished every year.

Calves are bought from local dairy farms when they are 1-2 weeks old. After weaning their diet is grass and forage.

The goal is to rear and finish cattle at 320kg at 20-24 months.

Aled Evans

The system is relatively simple - to grow as much grass as possible and turn that grass into kilos of liveweight gain.

But it is not only about growing high volumes of grass, growing good quality grass and ensuring maximum utilisation and minimise wastage is key.

To achieve this, Aled has focussed on grassland management, targeting high entry covers of 3,000kg DM/ha because the more leaf there is the greater the energy available to the grass plant.

This promotes root depth too, and Aled has even seen water infiltration rates increase by 75% since he adopted this approach to grazing.

For GrassCheckGB weekly measurements with a rising plate meter are taken during the grazing season. From this Aled can fully utilise the grass he is growing because he can plan stocking rates and buy in feed when, and if he needs to in a cost effective way.

Rotational grazing has shortened the winter by two months which has halved the farm’s requirement for silage, to 64ha.

“Our approach to grassland management has paid off as we are now growing 14 tonnes of dry matter (DM)/ha a year.

“We are not only growing more grass but our utilisation rate has increased to 85%

from 70%. We have achieved this in part by changing the frequency of moving cattle to fresh grass, to a daily shift instead of every three days.’’

Sustainability

Aled has calculated that grazing grass costs the farm about 5p/kg DM, compared with silage at 12p/kg DM and concentrates at 20p/kg DM.

The more grass he can grow, the more profitable and sustainable his business. The concentration on improving grass utilisation has also led to better soil structure and
soil health, both of which have positive biodiversity and environmental benefits.

Aled’s approach to maximising output from grass means that the farm’s basic payment accounts for less than 10% of farm income.

Farm Facts

  • 212ha farmed including Rest Farm in conjunction with two other units within a seven-mile radius.

  • Grazing 650 dairy-cross cattle at one time

  • 700 breeding ewes

  • 700 store lambs finished in a profit-share with another farmer

This case study was produced as part of ‘Perfecting the Welsh Way: A practical guide to sustainable sheep and beef farming’ by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales. The full document can be found at meatpromotion.wales