Why William would be an effective mentor

  • Progressive young dairy farmer Will Hannah grew up on the 150 acre Pembrokeshire farm which his parents had bought and developed as first-generation farmers. He is now the driving force behind the holding he’s now expanded to over 600 acres, where he runs 420 New Zealand Friesian dairy cows.  

  • Will and his three sisters were all treated equally in their family’s succession plan, which saw the asset value being divided equally between them all. He initially became a partner in the family business and then as the only sibling wanting to farm, be bought his sisters out. Will says that the need to farm profitably year on year is what has driven him forward. “Taking on a big bank loan in your early 20s helps focus the mind!”     

  • Since taking over Will has steadily developed the business.  He now runs the herd with the help of one full-time farm worker, two-part timers and his dad who is still happy to be involved. Perhaps more relevantly, this innovative farmer has introduced significant infrastructure and cutting-edge technology to ensure that he’s not only profitable, but efficient and sustainable too. 

  • Focused on grass-based profitable farming, he advocates all farmers matching their systems to the resources on their farm and its location.  Late block calving works well with the local micro-climate in Pembrokeshire while having a grazing platform enables him to produce milk at a relatively low cost through a low input system with bought in feed kept to the absolute minimum. 

  • This confident and capable young farmer is keen to share his expertise and knowledge with others. Expect to be inspired by his down-to earth approach and his willingness to keep up to date with technology and best practice.  

Current farm business

  • 420 New Zealand Friesian cows on a grass-based late spring block calving system. 

  • Aim is to produce as much milk from forage as possible - particularly grazed grass. Currently the herd averages just over 6, 000 litres per annum, with 480kgms of milk solids. 

  • They feed around 900kg of concentrates per annum and produced 4,200 litres from forage last year.

  • Calving is conducted in a 10 week block from March 20, with typically 90% of the herd calved outside.

  • All replacement calves are reared in groups of 45, with a system of labour-efficient outdoor calf rearing in the late spring, using a trailed feeder system. 

  • New infrastructure overseen by Will includes: 

    • Building a large slurry lagoon, to make the farm NVZ compliant

    • Building more silage storage

    • Building 420 cow cubicles 

    • 54 point rotary milking parlour (one man milking) a sort gate, water hydrant wash systems etc

  • New grazing infrastructure involves cow tracks and a new water system 
  • Investing in LoRaWAN technology has cut down man hours by helping detect water loss and leakage quicker  
  • Recently installed solar on the new parlour roof combined with a new ice bank which should lower electric use and provide power for milk cooling in warmer weather

Qualifications/achievements/ experience

  • BSc 2:1 in Physical Geography from Exeter University (2007)

  • Member of local Grazing Dragons discussion group which has been invaluable in developing a profitable sustainable farming system. 

  • After returning from university Will applied for Farming Connect courses on both foot trimming training and DIY – two areas he has never needed to contract out! 

Top tips for business success

“My parents prioritised succession planning, so when I came home to farm, there was a plan in place. I’ve made it my mission to build upon all they achieved and with five young children of our own, succession is an issue I’m already addressing!”
“Try to play to your own strengths and the resources you have.  Your farm’s location, the climate and topography can help you maximise the potential for economic and environmental advantage.”