Hedgerows and grazing are transition focus for upland farm

Better grazing administration and extra hedgerows are among the many long-term targets for upland beef and sheep producer Irwel Jones.

A 3rd-generation farmer, Mr Jones, took over the 375ha Aberbranddu Farm, close to Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire, from dad and mom Eirwyn and Heulwen in 2013.

He now tackles the difficult upland terrain in partnership along with his spouse, Charlene.

See additionally: How an upland farm is adapting to outlive with out subsidies

The land rises from 200m above sea stage to 400m with areas of marsh and mountain about 20 miles from the coast.

“The farm is the first high ground to be hit by the weather and the 2,000mm of rain we get pretty much dumps itself on us.”

Farm info: Aberbranddu Farm

  • Farm dimension: 375ha acres (255ha owned and 120ha rented)

  • Enterprises: sheep (Tregaron-type Welsh Mountain) – 950 ewes on owned land, 550 on rented space with Welsh and Aberfield sires used; suckler cows and followers – 40 continental crosses; root crops
  • Annual rainfall: 2,000mm
  • Soil: clay and peaty on marshy areas

Transition objectives

  • Carefully prolong and handle pure woodland 
  • Plant hedgerows to enhance biodiversity and help pasture administration 
  • Rely much less on risky inputs

Grazing administration

Of the 375ha, simply 150ha is improved. The the rest is tough grazing with steep-sided slopes and 80ha of ageing, pure oak woodland.

But Mr Jones is working to show the challenges to his benefit. He hopes a stability of woodland and tough grazing will match nicely with the longer term goals of policymakers.

The farm has lengthy made use of environmental schemes with a decade in Glastir and years in Tir Gofal earlier than that.

Aberbranddu Farm

Aberbranddu Farm © Richard Stanton

Under the schemes, the farm planted hedgerows and bushes. The intention is to proceed with that course of underneath the Welsh authorities’s yet-to-be introduced post-Brexit agriculture plans.

Aware of the land seize and tree planting underneath approach by giant corporates offsetting their carbon outputs, Mr Jones says woodland enchancment can be carried out sensitively.

“Tree planting is a good way to capture carbon, but we respect the natural aspect of the land and don’t want to plant rows of commercial conifers. It’s about getting the right tree in the right place,” he says.

Instead, bushes can be deciduous species and consistent with current woodland inside a website of particular scientific curiosity.

It is pure however filled with scrub and briar, and Mr Jones hopes to enhance it by securing setup and upkeep grants.

Planting hedgerows

Likewise he expects there to be future funding for hedgerows which can assist a serious planting coverage on the farm.

Hedgerows are central to the enterprise’s future – they are prone to entice funds, however will even assist a change in grazing administration.

They present shelter for fill up the hills and encourage biodiversity.

“We intention to interrupt up giant grazing areas into smaller fields, making grazing administration extra exact.

The intention is to make use of newly planted hedges to create as much as 40 paddock areas, versus the unique 11 on the higher block.”

Over the previous 5 years, Aberbranddu has been an illustration unit for Farming Connect.

One challenge appeared into rotational grazing, transferring ewes each 4 to 5 days. It confirmed the manufacturing advantage of utilizing smaller paddocks for rotational grazing.

“Surprisingly, with our rainfall, one challenge will be to get water supplied to each of the paddocks,” Mr Jones says.

“The water flows down the hill easily enough but it is trickier to get it to go back up.”

He intends to construct ponds to gather water on the foot of the slopes and to make use of solar energy to pump it up the hill.

The farm, already has a 7kW hydro-electric energy generator, which has helped to guard the enterprise from hovering vitality costs.

Reducing inputs

Mr Jones additionally desires to have a look at methods of lowering reliance on different volatile-priced inputs, corresponding to fertiliser, feed and gasoline.

The farm has already improved pasture with a liming regime and makes use of the suckler herd to spice up vitamins.

This has helped fields to hold heavier stocking charges and cut back fertiliser use by one-third to 40t/yr.

Applications are underpinned by common soil testing so that offer is tailor-made to fulfill exact necessities, slightly than calculations and estimates.

Further reductions in fertiliser are focused because the soil well being continues to enhance underneath rotational grazing.

The farm has not used bought-in feed for the previous three years on the primary flock, says Mr Jones.

During winter, sheep are on root tops, grown on 4ha of the farmland. But the additional subject work and ploughing is carbon intensive.

Mr Jones hopes the improved grassland will enable him to drop the basis crop enterprise sooner or later.

It could also be essential to trim the flock dimension by about 100 ewes to fulfill this intention, Mr Jones says.

Livestock would nonetheless be the primary driver, however grazing and manufacturing could be extra in stability and, subsequently, extra sustainable.

Tregaron-type Welsh Mountain sheep

Tregaron-type Welsh Mountain sheep © Richard Stanton

Irwel Jones is certainly one of our Transition Farmers. Join him as Aberbranddu Farm strives to turn out to be financially and environmentally sustainable and overcome the challenges it faces over the subsequent 5 years.

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