THE annual meeting of the North Pembrokeshire Grassland Society included a summary from the Chair person, Joy Smith, of an organised visit made earlier in the year to agricultural units in Yorkshire, and from Will Prichard who used a bursary from the Society’s Rex Patterson fund to see some of the latest dairy technology being applied in Australia.
Reporting on a hugely successful 40th year programme for NPGS, Joy remarked that the farm tour had included a business who had visions of becoming the most successful integrated animal breeding and farming company in Europe.
Having the business was now one of the largest private, familyowned farming companies in Britain, with a reputation for producing and marketing high yields of quality produce and livestock that achieve very acceptable returns on capital.
Founded just over 50 years ago the company has an annual turnover in excess of £20 million and employs over 220 full-time staff, included are three core businesses –arable farming, pig production and genetics-overseen by a corporate centre comprising 6 directors, 3 of whom are non-executive.
The arable side of the business, she said, which is fully underpinned by technical, marketing, financial and administration support, are responsible for 16,000 acres, either owned or tenanted by the company, or farmed for clients under a farm management agreement. The land grows a variety of crops including cereals, oilseed rape, vining peas, sugar beet, potatoes, and onions.
The pig 18 units, which include the UK’s largest and most environmentally conscious pig genetics base, has 7,800 breeding sows producing 150,000 breeding and slaughter pigs annually sustained by a sound research base dedicated to customer service, veterinary health monitoring and technical support.
Other visits on the 5 day itinerary included a unit where three brothers -who had previously owned 100,000 acres in Russia –now farmed 2,600 acres running a dairy herd of 900 pedigree Holsteins with an annual lactation yield of 9,600kgs, several other dairy farms, a cheese plant and a number of livestock breeders including a 2,000 head beef unit dedicated to using stabilizer bulls and finishing all stock at grass.
Will Prichard presented some fascinating details of the World’s first proto- type commercial robotic milking rotary presently being unveiled by the Swedish dairy equipment company, de Laval, at an al grass pilot farm with 1,300 cows in Tasmania.
The technology has been developed by the FutureDairy project in Australia, a collaboration between de Laval, Dairy Australia, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of Sydney. Featuring five robots, the rotary has a capacity to milk up to 90 cows per hour, and is based on 24 -unit internal, herringbone rotary that enables the robots to reach the cow from the side. With the use of laser technology, the robots focus red light to determine the location of the cow’s teats, clean them and attach the cups.
The first two robots clean and prepare the teats for milking, the second two attach the cups to the teats, and the last robot sprays the teats to disinfect them before the cows leave the platform.
Design of the dairy yard plays an important role in the AMR’s operation – the yards have a series of smaller yards, divided by automatic gates known as smart selection gates (SSGs), which can guide cows in two or three different paths after the milking.
Will assured his audience that the cows wear automatic identification collars or transponders, and when the cows approach the SSG, the system reads the transponder and guides the cow in the direction set in the DELPRO herd management software.
Mrs Smith was warmly thanked for ensuring another successful year for the Society which remained, by far, the largest in Wales and also, last month, hosting –for the first time in Wales -a meeting of the British Grassland Society.
Elected chairman for the coming year was Meurig S Harries with Peter Smith as vice –chairman. The secretary, Cheryl Codd, and treasurer, Dyfrig Davies, were re-elected. Delegates reappointed were Neil Perkins (British Grassland Society) and Jeff Evans (to the Welsh Federation of which he is current chairman).
Awards: Member of the Year, 2013 –Roger Jones, Trenichol, Grassland –Will Prichard, Escalwen and Gerwyn Williams, Swmbarch, New leys – Jonathan and Christopher James, Trefaner (at Trevigan), Clamp Silage –Tim and William James, Farthing’s Hook, Round bales, Roger Jones, Milk production, Roger Ridgway, Clovers and Jeff Evans, Broadmoor.