Paddock grazing helps farm capture two thirds of milk from forage

Aled Potts, 27, secured a place on the Prosper from Pasture programme earlier this year
Aled Potts, 27, secured a place on the Prosper from Pasture programme earlier this year

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

Bryn Farm is in the process of changing its milk production profile from all year-round calving to an autumn block.

Systems have been put in place to capture more value from the grass grown on the 81-hectare (200 acre) holding.

The Denbighshire dairy business is farmed by three generations - Ivor Hughes, his son, Dilwyn, and grandson, Aled Potts.

Aled joined after first studying agriculture at Llysfasi College and later dairy farm management at Reaseheath College.

He was keen to apply some of the knowledge he had gained, so he 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," the 27-year-old said.

Cows were previously at grass on a strip grazing system but, with assistance from Precision Grazing, the facilitators for Prosper from Pasture, 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," he added.

The young farmer 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 averaging 7,200 litres of milk per cow per 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 said.

“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."

The new application window for the Prosper from Pasture programme closes on 26 November.