26 July 2002

Pasture is king for family that aims to be self-sufficient family farm

OPTIMUM self-sufficiency is the theme behind market-led production of beef and sheep at the Jones familys unit at Castellior, near Menai Bridge.

Wyn Jones, who farms in partnership with his father, wife and son, said the 230ha (570-acre) farms main product was grass. The 500 finished cattle and 1400 prime lambs marketed were by-products.

"Grass is the cheapest source of feed, so we try to manage pastures well and to make the grazing season as long as possible," said Mr Jones.

"About 36ha of spring barley is also grown because we need grain and straw. We try to do all field work at the right time, so we have invested in machinery to be independent of contractors."

BGS members heard that Castellior was a good grass growing farm. Reseeding was done under barley, the usual mixture being perennial ryegrass, Timothy and white clover. Where growth ran ahead of grazing cattle and grass started to head pastures were topped, and the cut material left to be eaten or made into a light crop of big bale silage.

Mr Jones emphasised the importance of quality grazing and silage, but explained that the over-30-months-scheme had forced him to make increasing use of home-mixed concentrates.

Cattle finishing at grass were given ad-lib access to a dry mix containing big bale silage, straw and home grown barley which cost about £75/t, but it certainly speeded finishing.

Stock finished inside were given a total mixed ration that included some bought-in wheat, soya and maize gluten. "We are still experimenting with the feeder wagon and believe buying raw materials at the right price is crucial."

Visitors were told that 12 month plus cattle were bought from auctions and through dealers. They ranged from high quality beef bred animals to stock from dairy herds which ended up in the growing minced beef market.

The aim was to turn out animals classifying R and O+ for conformation. This was not easy with Holstein steers, but only seven of the 230 Holstein steers sold last year classified P and the rest were O+ and O.

Cattle are sold throughout the year to get the best possible cash flow. The 900 mainly Welsh Halfbred ewes lambed indoors in January and February and were fed a mixed diet of silage, cereals and soya. Most lambs were Charollais sired. Lambs were creep fed at grass and 1000 were sold by July 17, with 81% grading R or better for conformation.

Wyn Jones, who chairs Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions, told his visitors that he tried to produce what the market wanted as efficiently as possible. He also tried to market the products well. But he felt vulnerable because the livestock industry had to depend so much on subsidies.

Wyn Jones reseeds pasture using a perennial ryegrass, Timothy and white clover mix.

&#8226 Own cereals grown.

&#8226 Cattle fed outside.

&#8226 Dependent on subsidies.