Farming Connect Study Visit - Llandovery Farming Connect group
Llandovery Farming Connect group
Geraint Powell, Cabalva farm, Whitney on Wye; Philip Gorringe, Lower Blackmere Farm, Blackmere, Hereford; Ben Taylor-Davies, Townsend Farm, Ross on Wye
8 & 9 December 2021
Looking at sustainable farming with particular reference to soil health & sustainable management. Lower inputs and how to adjust to improve environmental outcomes, as it is likely that future support within Wales will be targeted at environmental outcomes and objectives.
To see how farmers are adjusting to the already introduced ELMs environmental scheme in England.
[Why did you go? Provide some background information about your group and give an overview of your study visit’s aims and objectives]
The group consists of mainly hill and upland (primarily sheep) farmers, who are like-minded and proactive.
Firstly, continuing to strive to be more efficient and also looking to see how best to adjust to a primarily environmental management support-based system.
To learn more about sustainable soil management and how best to achieve this. Ben Taylor-Davies has some unique methods of achieving this, so we wanted to see these outcomes on the ground on not only his own farm, but other farms he works with.
Garry Williams Blaencennen, Gwynfe, Llangadog
Arwel Evans, Gellygron Farm ,Llandeusaint, Llangadog
James Booth, Glanmeilwch Farm, Gwynfe, Llangadog
Ian Rickman, Gurnos Farm, Bethlehem, Llangadog
Carys Jones, Glanbrynant Farm, Llandeilo
Hywel Morgan, Cwmclyd Farm, Myddfai, Llandovery
Dylan Morgan, Pwllcalch farm, Myddfai, Llandovery
Steve Welton, Gilfach Farm, Llandeusaint, Llangadog
Peredur Owen, Llwyn y brain House, Llandovery
Carinne Kidd, Llwyn y brain House, Llandovery
[What did you learn? Provide a description of your activities on each day of your visit and outline your key learning outcomes and knowledge gained]
2.1 Day 1
am: Met Geraint Powell, farm manager at Cabalva Farms. They had introduced the ELMs scheme on several areas of the farm. Saw how the livestock enterprises had been adjusted to fit in with these practices to maximise environmental payments, but also continue livestock production. Switch of breeds to more native breeds and predominantly outwintering cattle and some reduction of stock numbers.
pm: Philip Gorringe, Blackmere Farm. Particular reference to soil health and aeration on a primarily cereal farm. How to deal with increasing input costs, particularly fertiliser etc. He had planted cover crops, which could be grazed to increase soil organic matter. Possible looking at shared benefit of the group supplying some sheep to achieve this over winter period. Philip had been working with Ben Taylor-Davies over the last 18 months to deal with issues of soil structure and fertility. Looking at some of the inventive ways of dealing with those issues.
2.2 Day 2
Extensive visit to Ben Taylor-Davies’s farm. Looked at length at the herbal leys grown as a break crop for cereals and how they benefited soil health and structure – for example, plants like plantain and chicory have extended tap roots that extend into the subsoil to break up panning. The biodiversity of these leys is great for wildlife, but also has different mineral availability from different plants grazed, benefiting livestock. Also looked at the role different bacteria play in soil health.
3 Next Steps
a) A number of group are looking at planting herbal leys to trial the benefit within the next 12months, and indeed, one has already done so, as biodiversity for animal grazing and wildlife combined.
b) The use of minimal tillage when planting the seed, instead of ploughing (as previously employed by the group), which releases carbon.
c) Looking to continue our work with Ben Taylor-Davies in a consultancy role.
d) Liaising with Ben could help us with increasing our carbon score/credit in the future to achieve possible financial benefit.
e) Also helping us to adapt to the new environmentally based support scheme that Welsh Government is likely to be prioritising as part of support for agriculture moving forward.
f) Looking more at beneficial bacteria and the possibility of application to improve soil health.
g) Far more priority to the importance of looking after our soils for future generations.
h) Minimise external inputs.