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Good grass is a family tradition
NOT only is this year’s Royal Welsh host county renowned for the quality of the livestock it produces but it also has an enviable record for the high standard of grassland management.
But when it comes to achievement one family and one farm, in particular, stand apart – the Davies’s of Tynlofft, at Silian, near Lampeter.
As far as grassland awards go there is little left for them to achieve.
Now retired, Sam set the ball rolling by winning the top nationwide British Grassland Society accolade, eldest son, John, who is now running Tynlofft, followed suit, and not to be outdone so did his brother, David, who farms next door at Gwarffynnon.
Both have subsequently been elected Fellows of the Royal Agricultural Societies for their contributions to grassland farming.
The secret of success? Quite simply total dedication and complete attention to detail.
That management approach not only applies to forage conservation, either.
Tynlofft itself is a world apart from most farms. There is nothing fanciful about the mix of stone and modern buildings, but together with the farmyard they are always immaculate.
Nothing is out of place, there is no jumble, no debris and certainly no weeds. Everything is just spic and span.
Little wonder that Tynlofft is also a past winner of the prestigious all-Wales “clean and tidy” farm award. Like father like sons, the attitude is always ‘if something is in need of attention, don’t leave it – do it.’ Very little, in fact, has changed at Tynlofft over the years.
It still runs to 40 ha (100-acres) made up of an incredible 29 fields – the largest of them being only seven acres – there are 100 pedigree black and white milkers and 100 followers with breeding roots dating back to the 1920s and an impressive average yield nudging on 8,000 litres per cow at 4.06 per cent butterfat and 3.25 per cent protein.
Calving is all-year-round with winter housing running from mid-October to late April in order to conserve as much grass as possible for a first silage cut during the first week of May.
That, and a second cut, is clamped in two covered stores, with the target take being 1,000 to 1,100 tonnes, together with up to a further 300 big bales, as and when, grass growth permits.
Tack sheep are taken for three months in the winter to tidy up.
The only forage fed is grass silage, grab delivered to feed barriers, while concentrates are fed in the parlour – a 10-10 abreast originally installed as a 6-6 back in 1972. Concentrate feed costs are put at 5.74p per litre.
Great store is put on the value of slurry, with automatic scrapers feeding into a 300,000-gallon circular tank and all dirty water being kept separate.
Fields are regularly analysed but by applying around 3,000 gallons or so per acre of slurry at the end of February and a further 1,000 gallons after each silage take, the only fertiliser now being applied are 65 to 70 units of a 27 per cent nitrogen-chalk type. Previously up to 100 units were going on.
Long term leys
Long-term leys – one field is 25-years old - are only reseeded as and when considered really necessary.
Between them, the brothers own their own silage making equipment and can call on an experienced pool of local labour in order to clamp the grass as quickly as possible - considered to be one of the key factors towards consistently conserving top quality material.
For most of the year John and his wife, Mair, make up the farm workforce, though a relief milker is employed on a regular basis. Their two sons, Mark and Gavin, are both away studying non-agricultural courses.
“Everything revolves around giving our full attention to the cows, their feed and their surroundings,” says John.
“For a family unit the system works very well and we have no plans to change or extend the operation.”