Demonstration Site Project - Newton Farm

Comparing commercial Dock control treatments in rotational grazing paddocks with and without clover


Aim of the project-

Richard’s main aim is to control docks in some of the permanent pasture fields that are used as part of his rotational grazing system to maximise grazing.   Although Richard has managed to control docks in the past he feels that dock levels are now impacting on quality and quantity of grass grown in some fields. . We will compare conventionally recommended products available to farmers and treat on fields that contain clover and some without clover. We will also look at a split Spring and Autumn application compared to a Spring Application. There are two blocks we intend to treat, one is next to a canal and we will work with Welsh Water to ensure best environmental application practice.


What will be done:

  1. Ensure current soil tests for the fields to be treated to include a soil structure assessment.
  2. Assess dock levels in each identified to decide the economic viability of treatment. Check whether clover present.
  3. Identify growth stage of docks and species of dock present.
  4. Create an appropriate herbicide spray recommendation for control of docks taking into account clover, grazing method and following crop.
  5. Create a best practice protocol for application taking into account sprayer safety,
  6. application best practice and environmental considerations.
  7. Clearly agree any restrictions such as grazing interval, following crop restrictions etc
  8. Assess % level of dock control post treatment
  9. Look at ROI for dock control – monitor in Spring then again in early Autumn


Project Update May 2019

Report: Dock control results in grassland gains on Farming Connect Focus Farm

September Report: Dock control project in fields with and without clover 2019

Suckler herd efficiency


Project Aims and What will be done:

Richard has recently transitioned his suckler herd from continental beef breeds to Pedigree Stabilisers and is therefore an ideal time to grasp and take control of the herd performance.

The project will aim to set ambitious targets for the herd to ensure management and the efficiency of the herd is improving year on year. The project will set interim targets which will be reviewed to ensure we are progressing towards the ultimate targets. The financial benefit accrued from improving the herds performance, such as increasing numbers of calves reared and achieving a compact calving are substantial and are a significant contributor to top financial performance.


Strategic Objectives:

  • Improve the efficiency of the suckler herd to improve viability.
  • Increasing the average weight of weaned beef per cow (in-line with HCC strategic Objectives).
  • Contribute towards increasing the national average cattle herd performance by decreasing the average calving interval (in-line with HCC strategic Objectives).

Calving performance

  • Calving cows from 18th March
  • Calving index has reduced from nearly 400 days in 2013 (before Stabilisers were introduced) to around 365 days in 2017 and 2018 (was slightly lower even in 2016)
  • In 2018 73% of cows have calved in the first three weeks with 96% within six weeks
  • Currently 73 cows are running with 75 calves
  • 2017 heifer calves weaned at 253kg (40% of mature cow weight)
  • 2017 bulls (entire) weaned at 327 kg (51% of mature cow weight)

These are all excellent results and the key is to maintain this level of performance going forward- the following factors will contribute to this success-

  • Having a fertile, maternal breed that holds condition well and will not give you difficult calving even if fitter than recommended
  • Easy calving (low birth weights) meaning no issues with cows not cleansing, and ensures early return to oestrous
  • Having plenty of choice of breeding heifers born early
  • Calving heifers at 2 years of age and only bulling heifers for 6 weeks to self-select for fertility
  • Being in a cattle health scheme
  • Annual benchmarking of herd performance
  • Ensuring cow size does not become too high by choice of bulls

Project Updates:

Technical Publication (Issue 19, page 16-17):Top tips on profiting from suckler beef at Farming Connect Demonstration Site

Report: Top tips on profiting from suckler beef at Farming Connect on-farm event

Video: Eitem Ffermio Newton Farm

Testing the value of using coated & inoculated White Clover seed


Aim of the project:

Achieving the target of 25-30% white clover in a sward can be difficult. White clover can supply over 150 kg Nitrogen/ha. However, in order to get an animal production and sward benefit to clover, the ideal content of clover in the established sward is 25 to 30%. Even under good management practices successful clover establishment can be difficult on farm as it is a very small seed and slower than grass to germinate. The small seed size means it has fewer reserves than grass to draw on during the early stages of development and is more prone to stress and poor establishment.

Coating clover seed can substantially improve establishment and productivity. The coating used for clover contains beneficial ingredients to aid improved germination and provide more energy to the seed. The ingredients include- rhizobium, lime and trace elements. 

Coated white clover has been shown to establish quicker and produce seedlings with longer petioles and larger leaves. 


What will be done:

Two neighbouring fields have been identified for the project.

Both have been soil sampled and have a pH of 5.7 and 5.8. 


For the project we will not only measure the germination levels between coated and non-coated seed but will also assess the different sowing management.

Therefore, both fields will be split into two (see pic above) with one have of both fields being sown with standard non-coated AberDai clover and RG and the other half been sown with coated AberDai clover and RG.

Field one will be sprayed with glyphosate and ploughed and field two will be sprayed off and seeds will be direct drilled.

To measure, initially at 2 months old the clover seedlings will be counted per meter square to evaluate germination rates.

As the sward becomes older a % of clover in the sward will be measured.

Comparison in yields will not be measured until 12months, as clover does not produce Nitrogen to the grass until 10-12months, but will not become evident until about 18months from sowing. We will use cages to measure yield which will allow Richard Roderick to still graze the fields.

Enhancing grain feeding systems

The aim of the project is to look at the benefit of adding a grain additive to home grown barley to feed bull beef.

The additive is a grain preserver and feed enhancer, made up of –

• Enzymes and essential oils

• Feed Grade Urea


The ‘proposed’ benefits of using such additive is that ammonia is released within the ensiled grain thereby rapidly treating the grain without the need for drying or any further processing. The process aggressively releases ammonia into the mature whole or cracked grain which inhibits the growth of yeasts and moulds and attacks other spoilage organisms present on the harvested grain. This also raises the pH of the treated material to an alkaline level between 8.5 and 9.5 pH and acts as a buffer to acidic forages when fed. At the same time, this activity enhances fibre digestibility of the grain and raises the protein level by approximately 30%.

By feeding a more alkaline feed this should reduce the risk of acidosis which results in a decline in fibre digestion and lower feed intake, which inevitably reduces performance. By feeding a feed that is friendlier to the rumen we can feed much higher rates of grain in comparison to traditional forms of cereal feeding

When finishing cattle it is important to consider the needs of the rumen microflora as well as the needs of the animal- this project will aim to also highlight this issue.

Typical grain crude protein levels of untreated wheat and barley are in the region of 11% CP. By applying the additive treatment this can be increased by approximately one third. This will hopefully significantly reduce dependence on bought in protein sources, allowing the farm to become more self-sufficient and reduce GHG by reducing the amount of protein bought in.   

As the grain does not need to be dried this will also reduce cost, time and make the product dust free. The storage of the product is also very simple with grain needing to be air and water tight for 2weeks, after which time the indoor clamp is opened at plastic covers completely removed. This will allow for easy feed out without the need to remove covers daily.


Richard Roderick is keen to undertake this project for many reasons-

  • Has a target of finishing Stabaliser bull beef before the age of 15months to maximise the premium provided by Morrisons Supermarket.
  • As growing Barley and Wheat are options within the farmers Glastir contract, using this additive will allow him to improve the grain’s quality especially due to climate in Wales where achieving an adequate moisture content can be tricky.
  • As mentioned above, the ability of the additive to increase grain protein levels by 4.3 units, a 30% increase will dramatically reduce the amount of bought in protein onto the farm.
  • Having the ability to feed higher levels of grain to young cattle at peak feed conversion rate.

What will be done?

  • When feeding every morning, the telehandler will be equipped with load bars therefore the amount of grain offered will be weighed, this allowing us to also get a figure for the total amount of grain fed throughout the project.
  • Cattle will be weighed fortnightly and cattle ready for slaughter will be removed from the group.
  • Information from the slaughter house in regards to fat class, weights and grades will also be collected and analysed at the end of the project.
  • All cattle will have free access to clean water, straw and minerals.

Digestate as Agricultural Fertiliser


Project aims:

  • Explore the use of digestate – the liquid produced from anaerobic digesters – as an alternative to compound fertilisers.
  • Compare different application methods for digestate.

Strategic objectives:

  • Help to address commercial and environmental requirements by offering low environmental impact, with effective and sustainable solutions by nutrient cycling.
  • Raise awareness and understanding of soil fertility and improving soil performance in sustainable ways, such as using environmentally-friendly materials to enhance the nutrient profile and conditioning of soils.

Project in practice:

  • The nutrient levels of the digestate will be analysed and a compound fertiliser chosen that best matches the analysis.
  • A 13-acre field will be split into five even-sized designated plots, one to act as a control with no inputs applied, one treated with compound fertiliser and the others treated with digestate applied by a trailing shoe, splash plate and disc injection.
  • After application grass growth on each plot will be measured weekly for six weeks. This will help determine the best application method for the digestate and identify any differences between fertiliser and digestate.
  • After 35 days a fresh grass sample will be sent to determine the levels of nitrate available in the grass.

Project update:

The project has been completed. Read our blog report highlighting the key findings from the project.

Technical Publication (Issue 6, pages 12-13): Anaerobic digestate as biofertiliser

Optimising Lamb Value on Plantain


Project aims:

  • Evaluate the longevity of plantain as a crop for lamb finishing, by revisiting an established crop and evaluating its efficiency after three years.

Strategic objectives:

  • Examine the potential of plantain to improve the efficiency of lamb production through: A. better growth rates and days to finish; B. Strengthening the resilience of the business.
  • Examine how plantain can integrate into a sheep farmer’s grassland management system
  • The key indicators of the project will be liveweight gain of marked lambs and their killing out percentage and lamb grazing days achieved per acre.

Project in practice:

  • A plantain crop was established in 2014 to examine its potential to improve the efficiency of lamb production through better growth rates and days to finish. Now in its third season, it has been rested and is ready for grazing.
  • The field will be split in half with an electric fence and a system of grazing and resting each half will be introduced.
  • Average daily liveweight gain of the lambs will be recorded, along with killing out percentage and grades achieved. Total grazing days per hectare will also be recorded.
  • The information will be compared to findings from 2014 to determine the longevity of plantain for the purpose of fattening lambs.

Project update:


Newton Farm Booklet