Change can fuel profits and save thousands - ON-Farm 2016 verdict

Feb 17 2016

Farm businesses in Wales are losing thousands of pounds each year by failing to make simple yet highly effective changes on-farm, leading researchers told an industry audience at HCC’s inaugural ON-Farm 2016 event in Carmarthen.

Contributors presented a wide range of animal health, environmental and genetic tips from a bedrock of research within HCC’s portfolio that, if implemented on-farm, could save thousands of pounds in unnecessary expenditure that many farms in Wales are currently paying out.

Farmers from across the south west of Wales attended ON-Farm 2016 at Gelli Aur college farm, the first of a new menu of “hands-on” grassroots events designed to encourage the widest take-up of on-farm efficiencies and share and further innovations developed from Wales’ leading agricultural research programme.

Throughout the year specialist sessions at regional and national level will be held to impart key findings from the wide-ranging body of research undertaken annually under HCC’s umbrella to impart to Welsh farmers a palate of practical innovations to encourage profitable production.

“HCC operates a portfolio of research projects with a set of highly distinguished industry partners in Wales and across the UK that covers vital areas of supply chain activity from impacts of climate change to animal health and welfare and new technical discoveries and benefits,” said Dr Julie Finch, HCC’s Corporate Strategy and Policy Manager.

ON-Farm 2016 contributors at Gelli Aur included Professor Diana Williams and Joe Angell, of the University of Liverpool, Dr Prysor Williams of Bangor University and Dewi Jones of Innovis Ltd.

Here are their tips

Joe Angell, Liverpool University

Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis (CODD) is a disease that affects up to a third of the Welsh flock and yet can be easily combatted.

  • Adopt good biosecurity measures and quarantine all incoming stock for four weeks
  • Check all sheep for sores on the top of the hoof, isolate affected sheep and treat appropriately
  • Disinfect equipment including foot trimmers/clippers, bag and dispose of all hoof trimmings


Professor Diana Williams, Liverpool University

Snails transmit liver fluke, where possible, reduce snail habitats, for instance:

  • Ensure drinking troughs don’t leak as these can create unnecessary wet areas
  • Construct a hard-core/concrete pad for drinking troughs
  • Carefully manage grazing in rushy ground and wet areas during peak fluke season
  • Quarantine all bought in stock, test and treat.


“Unmanaged parasites can cost up to £160 per infected animal and this year’s mild and very wet winter has extended the high-risk-period for liver fluke,” said Dr. Finch.


Dr Prysor Williams, Bangor University

Improving technical efficiency can also mitigate factors that affect climate change. Practical and cost-effective, some potential measures include:

  • Plant clover in grassland, as this fixes nitrogen and reduces the need to buy non-organic fertilisers.
  • Improve ewe nutrition in late gestation to increase lamb survival
  • Lamb ewe lambs to increase flock output
  • Increase lamb growth rates for earlier finishing
  • Select pasture plants that minimise nitrogen losses, e.g. high sugar rye grasses.


Dewi Jones, CEO Innovis

Byusing genetics to impact on economic performance, farmers can dramatically improve their animals with the consumer marketplace in mind. 

  • Genomics and gene marker tests will not substitute for performance recording
  • Genomics is most valuable for hard to measure traits
  • Selective culling is a key first step to improve performance

“The event was a great success and it was pleasing that we attracted both agricultural and veterinary students to the special afternoon session. As ON-Farm 2016 gains momentum, we will be calling on HCC’s team of exemplar farmers and scholars with specialist skills and experiences that link research with sustainable production,” said Dr. Finch.

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