Aled and Iwan Evans, Rest Farm, Whitland, Carmarthenshire
Aled and Iwan Evans are the 2021 Farmers Weekly Beef Farmers of the year.
Starting a business by defining targets for lifestyle and legacy sounds unusual but has low-cost dairy beef system focus and drive.
Brothers Aled and Iwan Evans went into partnership six years ago and devised a dairy-calf-rearing and beef-finishing enterprise to deliver profit, the right lifestyle and leave a legacy to be proud of.
During this time, they have become one of the UK’s flagship grazing units, and have grown their business from 180 calves in 2015 to running 650 cattle in 2021.
Grassland management and soil health is the primary focus of the entire enterprise.
The farm has become proficient at rotational grazing, growing redstart and turnips and managing high-sugar grass leys.
- Grazes about 650 dairy-cross cattle
- 700 breeding ewes
- About 700 store lambs finished in profit-share with grazing group farmers
- 212ha (524 acres) farmed
- Finishes about 325 cattle a year
- Weekly grass measuring
- 50 hours worked a week/labour unit
- Produces 305kg carcasses
- Grows 14t dry matter/ha
- Calf mortality below 0.5%
Costs are kept low by growing cattle on grass and silage – rather than cereal.
Calves arrive at one week old and are raised on milk replacer until about 120kg. They are then grown on grass and silage before a two-month housed finishing period, to yield a 305kg carcass.
The team have increased grass utilisation by 16% to about 85% by switching from three-day shifts to daily moves, which has helped reduce the housed winter period by at least 50 days.
Fertiliser use has halved in recent years and cost has fallen from £41/ha to £28/ha. Purchased feed fell from £323/ha in 2019 to £115/ha last year.
Investing in tracks and semi-permanent fencing has enabled on-off grazing. This has helped cut the farm’s contracting bill, with only 64ha (160 acres) needing to be cut, rather than 121ha (300 acres) a few years ago.
Each labour unit contributes no more than 50 hours each week, down from 75 hours in 2019. Aled and staff member Llifon Davies get every other weekend off, and Iwan – who also works for Microsoft – takes some of the pressure off during holiday time.
Aled believes this ensures the team is more productive during working hours, and they can properly switch off from work when with friends and family.
The team have also taken part in a 12-week wellbeing course with Positive Farmers, which looks at ways to minimise pressure and discuss triggers and behaviours that cause stress.
Llifon has been incentivised through a profit-share agreement on 110 animals, raised on his home farm for performance bonuses. He is also involved in all strategic meetings and is encouraged to make management decisions himself.
Healthy soils are a priority to leave the farm in good heart for the next generation. A recent study of five fields found organic matter levels of 7.5-9.2%, and infiltration rates as fast as 13 seconds.
These measures will be monitored in the future to assess how choices around leys and grazing practices affect soil health.
The brothers are also looking to limit the farm’s fossil fuel emissions and waste, although the latest Hybu Cig Cymru audit calculated the farm’s net emissions – carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) minus sequestration – to be 6.33/kg CO2e of liveweight beef, close to half of the Welsh average.
Exciting developments have also taken place through the farm’s involvement with the UK iteration of a US high welfare assurance scheme called A Greener World. Alongside supplying a high-end butcher and restaurant chain, they hope this will add value to their business for a prosperous future.
- Securing calf supply at set prices means budgets can be more accurate
- Calf health and quality are ensured by working with regular suppliers and subsidising the cost of the right beef animal
- Brothers complement each other in skills and expertise
- Run a low-cost system, but willing to invest in key areas – handling system, calf shed, software
A word from our independent judge
“I am impressed that Aled and Iwan focusing on taking control of key variables, including grassland production and quality, contracting incoming calf type and health, and consistently meeting tight market specifications to supply to niche processors.”
Ian Cairns, farm adviser with Agrifood Technical Services and 5 Ari
Our other finalists were:
- Mark Jelley, Perkins Lodge Farm, Long Buckby, Northamptonshire
- Ian Norbury, Mobberley Angus, Knutsford, Cheshire
The Farmers Weekly 2021 Beef Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by ABP
Farmers Weekly’s farming awards celebrates the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.
Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.