Making increased use of rotational grazing, cutting fertiliser use, and investing in high-performing varieties of grass and clover are among the strategies being considered by Welsh farmers to cope with climbing input costs, according to responses to a straw poll by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
Carried out in the wake of last month’s Royal Welsh Grassland event in Denbighshire, HCC’s survey of attendees asked what changes farmers would make to their systems over the coming year.
Of the majority who said they were looking at some changes, the most common response was to introduce more rotational grazing methods to make the most of existing pasture.
Some said they would be innovating with high-performing leys or forage crops, while other farmers noted they would be reducing their use of fertiliser in response to its soaring cost.
Improving grassland management is a key element in HCC’s ‘Perfecting the Welsh Way’ – a practical guide for beef and sheep farmers to improve the Welsh livestock sector’s already high reputation for sustainable methods.
HCC’s Industry Development and Relations Manager, John Richards, said,
“This was an initial survey, and more extensive research is needed on how farmers could respond to the current increase in the price of inputs and fuel. However the comments are nevertheless interesting.
“As expected, improving grassland management featured heavily in the comments, and making greater use of the natural resources at our feet can certainly be a key part of strategies pursued by beef and sheep farmers looking to be both more sustainable and more efficient.
“Given that food prices for consumers are rising, and analysis of global livestock sector trends have suggested there’s unlikely to be an increased supply of red meat in the near future, it is somewhat concerning – from the point of view of food security – that some farmers are thinking of reducing stocking levels. But most seem to be focused on adjusting their systems to make them more resilient, and less dependent on expensive inputs.
“Advice is available from a number of sources – HCC’s Perfecting the Welsh Way document as well as training courses – to help farmers review options with cost pressures. HCC is taking part in ongoing projects such as GrassCheckGB and collaborative research led by Bangor University on sustainable grazing, examining how grassland management can help both the financial and environmental performance of Welsh livestock farms.”
A prize draw carried out by HCC at the Grassland event was won by Ruthin farmer Hugh Jones, who has now received his prize of a grass plate meter.
A beef and sheep farmer from Pentrecelyn near Ruthin, Hugh Jones said:
“I was delighted to receive the grass plate prize, it will prove very useful here at Pentre Farm.
“I was introduced to the rotational grazing system nearly eight years ago during an Easyrams meeting I attended. I had some steep land with pieces of wet areas within it, so I decided to create some woodland, planted hedges and created 11 fenced paddocks. That was the beginning of the journey for me and I haven’t looked back.
“Creating quality grass and clover has to be the way forward for us to reduce costs, and I changed the system here a few years ago so we could finish the beef from grass. The Aberdeen Angus cross dairy calves are doing well and are sold at around 30 months.”