12 December 2019

 

A diverse range of projects that will inform future decision-making on Welsh farms are underway on Farming Connect’s new Demonstration Sites.

The projects, applicable to dairy, red meat, poultry and forestry, are being rolled out on the 18 farms recruited earlier this year.

Each project is different, and the results will be disseminated to farmers at an open day hosted by each farm during 2020. Each site will look at the financial and physical impact of any project work on the business, so that other farmers can learn from the experience. 

For example, at Bodwi, Mynytho, improving the profitability, sustainability and efficiency of finishing bull beef by utilizing homegrown grain will be explored. 

Bull beef are the most efficient animals to fatten because feed conversion and compensatory growth are at their highest at this stage of production; the quick turnover of the system is also very desirable for farmers.

But, because the bulls need to be fattened by the age of 16 months, or even 14 months under some schemes, the finishing systems can require high levels of inputs.

With uncertain beef prices and the high cost of concentrated feeds, the farm will look to gain more control by growing more of its inputs.

At Halghton Hall, Wrexham, the optimum conception weight and condition for ewe lambs will be examined.

The project also aims to identify the most sustainable scanning percentage for ewe lambs and seek to increase conception rates from 60% to over 90%.

There are projects of interest to dairy farmers too.

In the all-year-round calving herd at Erw Fawr, Anglesey, the aim is to increase the utilisation of grazed grass and to produce more milk from forage.

At Mount Joy, Haverfordwest, they’ll be looking to breed for efficiency in a spring calving grass based herd.

All calves will be genotyped and the best replacements according to the spring block calving system will be selected.

In addition, the potential of the genomic testing heifers to increase milk solids production further will be scrutinised.

Where possible, new and innovative technology will be trialled and demonstrated. For example, each site will have a LoRaWAN gateway that will help with data collection on-farm. LoRaWAN is one of a number of Internet of Things (IoT) enabling technologies that offers businesses a simple, low cost, low maintenance means of connecting large numbers of “things” to the internet in order to get better, more timely data.

Electrical Conductivity (EC) soil scanning on 40ha of grassland will be the focus at Pantyderi. Data collected will produce soil zone maps of every field based on soil type changes across the field. Soil sampling will be carried out within every zone, producing maps of nutrient indexes across the zones. This information will be used to explore the production, economic and environmental benefits in the context of more detailed nutrient management planning based on variable rate input application of fertiliser and lime. The use of dedicated software linked to tractor and machine GPS technology will also be investigated and demonstrated.

 

Other projects include:

Red Meat

  • Improving home grown feed value from clovers
  • Managing the change from sucklers to dairy beef
  • Sheep health and performance

Dairy

  • Cow mobility
  • Improving block calving fertility
  • Reducing fertiliser inputs and incorporating mixed leys

Poultry

  • Integrating technology into a layer unit

Arable

  • Using soil mapping and zoning to deliver efficiencies in nutrient inputs on arable land
  • Employing variable rate farming to grow a crop of spring barley 

Forestry 

  • Adding value to small farm woodland
  • Care and maintenance best practice techniques

 

Farmers can find the location of the Demonstration Sites on the interactive map on the new Farming Connect website.

The new-look website is split into four sections - Business, Land, Livestock and Our Farms – which allows users to easily identify topics of interest to them. 

Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Welsh Government.


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