22 September 1995

How first-class grass &forage spell success

SECURING premium prices for superior quality stock has helped a Powys family triple the size of its farming business in 12 years.

John Yeomans began farming the 28ha (68 acres) in 1973. Three land purchases have since increased the area farmed to 89ha (220 acres).

About 32ha (78 acres) at Llwyn y Brain, Adfor, is hill land rising to 470m (1400ft). As Montgomery- shire Farmers Union of Wales branch, members heard when they visited the farm, good grassland and conservation management are considered essential to produce a high output of quality livestock.

The beef enterprise uses 52 single suckled cows. The herd is made up mainly of Limousin crosses, but includes 10 registered Limousins.

The aim, he says, is to calve heifers in late February and the cows in March and April, though a few calves are born later at present.

About half the cows are served once using AI, before being run with the rest of the herd and home-bred Limousin bulls. AI bulls used include three Belgian Blues and three Limousins.

Selling policies

"We are looking for calving ease, and muscle," says John Yeomans. "Most of the commercial cattle are sold through Bishops Castle Quality Cattle Association sales, and most of the pure Limousin bulls are sold privately at home."

Calves are creep-fed from late August, housed with their dams in late October/early November, and weaned at the end of November. Afterwards they are loose-housed on straw and fed silage ad-lib, with 2kg/day/head of a blend comprising sugar beet, maize gluten, and soya meal. They are weighed monthly and gain around 0.9kg/day until sale in April or May.

Last year, his commercial bullocks averaged 402kg at 12 months, and by concentrating on quality, sold for £564/head. Yearling heifers averaged 351kg and realised £437/head. The cattle enterprise achieved a gross margin £438/ha.

This was only £28/ha less than that of the flock of 400 ewes and 150 ewe lambs. Most of these are registered Beulahs. Around 400 ewes are put to top quality Texel tups, and the rest Bluefaced Leicesters to produce Welsh Mule ewe lambs for sale. Beulah ewe lambs go to Beulah rams for easy lambing.

Around 20 of the best pure bred ram lambs are sold as yearlings, but all other lambs not needed for breeding are sold through the Wynnstay Country Lamb, a marketing scheme operated through a local co-op. Last season 92% classified E, U or R for conformation at fat class 2 or 3.

The flock is tupped in October after running with teaser rams for three weeks. Weaned lambing percentage is between 140 and 150. Last year the average weight of finished lambs was 15.75kg on the hook, and the average price £35/head.


FERTILISER POLICY

The improved grazings are limed regularly, and get 250kg/ha (2 cwt/acre) of a 34.5% nitrogen straight in April, and half the amount of the same product in August.

The main grazing areas get fym and applications of 124kg/ha (1cwt/acre) of nitrogen in March, April, May, June and August. The 18ha (45 acre) of silage land is dressed with 124kg/ha of a 34.5% nitrogen product in March, 370kg/ha (3cwt/acre) of a 20:5:15 compound in early April, and 90kg/ha (0.75cwt/acre) of a nitrogen straight in late April. A contractor takes the first cut in the second week of June.