Huw Foulkes

Pentrefelin, Denbigh

Building the health of the farm from the ground up

Pentrefelin is a family farm that runs a different system to the conventional dairy farm in North Wales, milking 20 cows and considers themselves as “micro dairy farmers”. Pentrefelin also produces beef and eggs and is looking at diversifying further into horticulture in the future. They sell all of their farm products directly to their customers and aim to build a relationship with them based on the health, welfare and environmental impact of his enterprise.
Being small scale also means Pentrefelin is completely self-sufficient when it comes to feeding the cows, they can grow enough food/forage so they don’t have to buy anything in. They milk a dual purpose, heritage breed of cow called the Red Poll which is bred for milk and beef, which is suited to a grass-based system. The calves are kept on their mothers for 12-14 hours during day time and then separated at night for around 8-10 hours for once-a day milking in the morning. 

The whole system at Pentrefelin is built and focused around soil health, the farms biggest asset. Huw is taking back management of the land that was previously rented for growing maize by adopting a regenerative approach of mob grazing on a rotational basis with long rest periods in between grazings. This approach will build resilience in his system reducing his reliance on fertiliser inputs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon storage. The improved soil structure will help mitigate against flooding or drought and help to build the biodiversity levels below ground which will support biodiversity above ground. 

The project at Pentrefelin is developing a baseline assessment of the soils. Three fields are being monitored:

  • Field 1 – managed regeneratively for 1 year and includes an agroforestry system. Three lines of fruit trees have been planted and fenced off which creates an infrastructure to facilitate rotational grazing.
  • Field 2 – managed regeneratively for 3 years and grazed on a rotational basis.
  • Field 3 – managed regeneratively for 6 years and grazed on a rotational basis.

On field assessment such as visual assessment of soil structure, earthworm count, infiltration rates, rooting depth, bare earth percentage, nodulation in legume plants, rhizosheath, slake test and other biodiversity assessments will be carried out as a baseline. The data will be collected and recorded on the soil mentor app. 

As well as these on field assessments, soil samples will be sent to the laboratory to measure physical, chemical and biological properties and the data will be compared against each other. This information will be helpful if Huw enters the Sustainable Farming Scheme as the proposed actions include monitoring soil health. 

Through driving further improvement in efficiency in these key business areas, the project will also contribute to the Sustainable Land Management outcomes including:

  • Reduce the farm’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • Clean Water
  • Maximise Carbon Storage
  • Mitigate flood and drought risk

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