High-tech Montgomeryshire farmer encourages others to apply for red meat travel bursary

Applications are now open for the Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) scholarship, and a young farmer from Montgomeryshire has been encouraging others to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from best practice from across the globe.

Thomas Howells, of Llanerfyl in Powys, won a HCC scholarship last year to study a New Zealand grassland system which maximizes paddock space, grass rotation and fresh water provision to provide high quality grassland throughout the season.

The trip has changed Thomas’ working life and he recommends other Welsh farmers follow in his footsteps and take advantage of the “fantastic opportunities” that the HCC scholarship offers.

But anyone who is interested will have to be quick because this year’s scholarship application closing date (June 18th, 2018) is rapidly approaching. 

“I live on a 350-acre family farm and there is no room to expand – land doesn’t come up for rent or for sale very often, so it’s difficult to increase flock size. That means it has to come down to improving efficiency,” said Thomas. “I felt that visiting New Zealand would be the most beneficial because of their pioneering work with the Technograzing system.” 

After seeing it in action, he estimates the system, which rotates grassland and directs the livestock to maximise intake of the most nutritious content, can produce as much as 40 per cent higher return on the same acreage by planning and using the land in a smarter fashion. “A blade of grass is like a solar panel, catching every bit of energy from the sunlight. Three days after being grazed, the plant will try and grow back and grazing at this stage reduces yields significantly.”

He said that farmers can utilise up to 50 per cent of grass in a standard set stocked method of grazing; with Technograzing, utilisation is boosted to around 80-90 per cent. “It means thinking production per hectare, not production per head,” explained Thomas.

“Water also plays a huge role in grazing management. It will enable you to graze areas much more efficiently. Technograzing is all about directing the animals and building that pressure so that they graze the paddock clean,” he said.

Encouraging others to apply for the HCC scholarship, Thomas said “It’s without doubt a great way to meet new people who work in the industry and it really gets you thinking about how you can adapt and adopt new ideas to make the farm more commercial, more efficient and more successful.”

HCC Industry Development Executive James Ruggeri said; “This is the 21st year of the scholarship, and once again we’re looking for applications from motivated individuals who are keen to learn about the industry and see what can be done better here in Wales. Many of the key figures in the Welsh red meat supply chain – including the current presidents of both FUW and NFU Cymru – are among the alumni of this scholarship, so the Past Scholars’ Association is a great way to build networks in the red meat sector.”