Farmer Tom Jones hopes to convince other Welsh producers that it’s not unusual to cut costs and close in on profitability by combining the latest genetic, grazing and forage technical developments.
Tom, from Dolanog near Welshpool, won a HCC Livestock Scholarship in 2013, travelling to New Zealand to look for a productive hill-farm ewe, study grazing systems and discover forage crops that could provide high quality feed.
He researched New Zealand farms in Waikaretu, Oparau, Aria, Marton, Wairarapa, Wellington and Mount Linton, Invercargill and, since returning, regularly “spreads the word” to other farmers of the efficiencies and best practices that he has identified.
He now advocates ‘‘Mob pressure’ - weaned ewe lambs, kept in ‘mobs’ and their performance monitored to highlight and eliminate weaker animals - as one of a palette of performance pointers that he believes will drive up on-farm competitiveness and increase returns.
Any lamb that doesn’t thrive within these conditions is sold. Tom has strict selection criteria – for example, twin/triplet born, lambing unassisted, maternal ability, weaning weight, worm resistance, growth rate etc.
On his return home, Tom adopted the New Zealand systems at his home farm which currently covers 200ha with 1,500 ewes, mainly North Country Cheviots which he crosses onto Aberfield rams. This year he introduced New Zealand genetics using Romney and NZ Texels, with a view to expanding. Tom is a supporter of the EID concept.
The farm also operates a rotational grazing system, grass growth is closely monitored and winter grazing is on arable land. Tom grows swedes and plantain on farm, citing benefits including drought resistance, mild anthelmintic properties and a high nutrient content sustained for longer periods of the year.
Each year HCC offers scholarships to people working in the Welsh red meat industry, to travel abroad in search of techniques and practices used in the production of lamb, beef or pork that could be adapted to the benefit of producers and processors in Wales.
Lynfa Davies, HCC’s Technical Development Executive, said: “Tom’s drive, enthusiasm and determination to push the boundaries of modern farming in the search for profitability and efficiencies is a testimony to the high calibre of applicants that the HCC scholarship unearths year-on-year from the Welsh farming community.”