Farmer Focus: On course for 14t DM/ha grass this season

I live with my wife Sarah and our two children, Molly and Emily, on Anglesey, North Wales, where my parents have farmed since the 1950s. 

Four years ago we embarked on a project to convert the family farm from a sheep and beef enterprise to a spring block-calving dairy. 

Infrastructure and reseeding was completed in 2014, and we sourced in-calf heifers from Cheshire and Ireland. 

See also: Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers here

Starting milk production

Milking commenced in late January 2015, with 92% of the cows calved by the end of February. This was a baptism of fire and one that affirmed how important it is to embark on a project of this nature with the right people.

This is something we have been very fortunate to do with business partner Mat Venables.

Goal setting is something I have become more familiar with since entering the dairy industry, and now appreciate it as being a vital part of our business and family development. 

As I write my first Farmers Weekly article, it strikes me that I am fulfilling an ambition harboured years ago to achieve things within agriculture that might be interesting enough to write about in in a Farmer Focus article. Hopefully it will be!

Our system aims to maintain a tight calving period from 1 February, with cows milked off grass immediately after calving. Grazing follows the spring rotation planner, with 30% of the farm grazed in February and the remainder in March. 

Grass and cow fertility looking good

Cows graze the 240ha platform until drying-off in early December. Grass growth averaged 14t DM/ha over the past two years, and this year looks as if it won’t be far off.

So far 2017 has treated us well. Cows came back after a favourable winter and calved down in great condition.

Mating went well, with scanning results showing 92% in calf after 11 weeks of serving and cows have milked exceptionally well. 

We are very fortunate to have an excellent team of people working within the business. They are a pleasure to work with and can be very proud of the results on the farms so far this year – I look forward to profiling their development for you over the next two years.

Johnjo Roberts converted his family’s 250ha beef and sheep farm to a 800-head spring-block calving dairy in 2014. Maximising grazed grass and good milk solids are priorities.