IN a year when Welsh dairy farms have experienced one of the most difficult springs for grazing their herds, Farming Connect is helping milk producers become better grassland managers.
Some of the UK and Ireland’s leading experts on growing, measuring, interpreting and utilising grass shared their knowledge with farmers at a three-day Master Grass Dairy workshop at the Farming Connect Innovation Site, Coleg Gelli Aur near Llandeilo.
During a range of practical sessions and seminars, the 15 successful course applicants learned how to improve their soils and swards, calibrate grass measuring devices, interpret grass growth and use software to interpret data.
Speakers included Noel Gowen of Grasstec, grassland adviser Chris Duller, LIC Pasture to Profit consultant Moana Puha, and John Owen, farm manager at Coleg Gelli Aur.
Mr Owen said there was “massive potential’’ for dairy farmers in Wales to make better use of the grass their farms are capable of growing.
He believes Master Grass participants were now better informed on how they could efficiently manage that grass.
“In Wales we can grow a lot of grass but generally we don’t make the best use of it,’’ he said. “Utilising grass can be difficult but there are a lot of tools to help us manage utilisation.’’
Among the course participants was 22-year-old Matthew Davies who milks 200 autumn calving cows at Catershook Farm, Templeton.
He said he had applied to the course to learn how to improve grass management, with particular emphasis on grass budgeting. “The more milk we can produce from grass, the cheaper it is for us as a business,’’ he said.
“Master Grass has been very valuable, very to the point and, importantly for me, it has been very detailed.’’
Student Marie Powell, of Abergavenny, is heading to New Zealand to work on a dairy farm for 10 weeks and, as her family farming background is in beef and sheep, she was keen to learn more about producing milk from grass.
For her, one most valuable pieces of knowledge she came away with was how to manage paddocks in certain weather conditions.
“I have learned the theory and I’m now looking forward to putting it into practice,’’ said 22-year-old Marie.
Farming Connect is now offering beef and sheep producers a similar opportunity with a Master Grass workshop at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, Glynllifon, on May 21-23.
Rhys Davies, Farming Connect Dairy Technical Officer in North Wales, urged farmers to apply.
“We want positive people who are willing to learn and who can contribute to these sessions,’’ he said.
“I believe the attendees on the dairy workshop have benefitted a great deal and will hopefully take those messages back to their own farms and implement some of the ideas they have picked up.’’
Farming Connect is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.