Pembrokeshire Farmer wins 2017 RWAS Grassland Trophy

7 July 2017

Welsh farmers are renowned as some of the world’s experts at growing grass as a crop and many of them compete for the annual All Wales Grassland Management Competition.

This prestigious competition is organised by the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies (FWGS), in conjunction with Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and sponsored by HSBC.

This year’s judges, technical expert, Dr Iwan Owen of Aberystwyth, HSBC Regional Agriculture Manager in Wales, Euryn Jones and last year’s winner and BGS UK winner, Mr Eurig Jenkins of Talsarn Lampeter, all agreed that this was a very strongly contested competition, however, the 2017 winner is confirmed as Mr Rhys James of Duckspool Farm Wiston, Haverfordwest a member of Cleddau Grassland Society.

Mr James milks 430 NZ Friesian x Jersey cows on just under 180ha (442acres). From the milking platform of 95ha (235acres) on the home farm, an average milk yield of nearly 5,500l/cow and a stocking level of 4.09cows/ha results in the production of 19,900litres/ha of milk with only 1000kg of concentrates/cow supplementing grazed grass and grass silage.

The farm is laid out to paddocks with an excellent network of tracks and water troughs. The pastures have all been reseeded within the last six years with late heading diploid and tetraploid perennial ryegrasses with white clover. This yielded a very impressive 16tonnes DM/ha in 2016 according to the computer software used as the basis of all grassland management decisions.

Soil fertility is monitored closely with lime, P and K being applied in accordance with soil testing results and pH and soil indexes being maintained at optimal levels. Nitrogen is applied at regular intervals throughout the season with a variable rate spreader and slurry is applied via a dribble bar by contractor to the grazing paddocks as well as the silage ground.

Grazing is managed with the help of Agrinet software and effective grazing management with excellent integration of grazing and silage making are key features of the system. The management of the grass wedge with strategic use of silage or concentrate as and when necessary reflects a flexible yet very robust system.

“Rhys describes Duckspool as a typical grass based spring calving dairy farm.” commented Dr Owen “However, the physical and financial output of the system, along with the overall appearance of the farm, the extensive evidence of forward planning and attention to detail in all areas, all point to a farm and farming system that are far from typical.”

Fellow judge Euryn Jones went on to say “Both physical and financial output and overall farm performance are aided by highly efficient use and integration of staff and machinery. It is impossible not be impressed by the farm, the grassland, the stock, the levels of performance and by Rhys himself.”

According to all the judges, “Rhys is achieving excellent results from grass and combines enthusiasm, a knowledgeable outlook and attention to detail as well as effective reliance on technology to achieve a very high standard of grassland management.”

Mr James will receive his trophy on Tuesday 25 July at 2.20pm at the Royal Welsh Show.