Friday, 24 October 2014

Home sweet home .. Part 1

In my first post I thought I'd introduce our first unit- Tre Abbot Fawr.

This is my the family farm where I grew up, and- depsite my obvious bias- a fantastic place to turn grass into milk! The farm comprises a 106 hectare dedicated grazing block, and a 6 hectare silage block. The land is predominantly free draining soils on limestone. Perfect for extended grazing!

My father, Richard Roberts, has always lived by the mantra, "if something is worth doing, it's worth doing properly", and it's certainly a phrase I heard a lot growing up! Starting with pedigree Holstein cattle (as was all the rage in the 80s), he milked 120 cows, with his herd £PIN (an old fashioned version of a BW) in the top 1% of the country. Even at this stage he wanted a simple easy to manage system, with cows grazing for 8 months of the year, eating some concentrates in the parlour and silage at the shoulders (spring/autumn) and winter.

In the search for ever increasing yields and the supposedly complex dietary needs of large cows my dad's system came to a crossroads in the early 00s. To improve productivity he could either continue down the road of higher yields and introduce the complexity of feeder wagons and housing cattle for longer periods of the year. Or try something different...

The Grazing Gogs discussion group started in 2001, with my dad attending some of the first meetings, and encountering grazing farmers and NZ consultants for the first time. By 2003 he was spring block calving 230 cows, laying tracks and electric fencing across the farm. The shift was radical. Focussing on managing the grass growth and utilisation, with cows now grazing for 10 months of the year.

I owe a huge amount to my family and my father for having the courage to try something different. The excitement that comes with pioneering attitudes and excellence in any field (pun intended!), is what drew me into the word of grassland dairying.

In April 2013, my company, Grazing Ventures entered into a sharefarming agreement to manage the farm. In a follow up post I'll focus more on this recent history.

Until then, good luck, and keep grazing!


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