HIS parents introduced him to the hands-on ‘land and livestock’ side of farming at an early age but for Carmarthenshire-born Dylan Morgan, it’s Farming Connect that keeps this construction management graduate ‘bang up to date’. Dylan says that Farming Connect has given him the skills and knowledge he needed to become the progressive and confident young farmer he is today.
“And the joy of it is, that I didn’t have to sit through hours of agri-theory lectures for three years!”
Dylan says that Farming Connect’s approach to all its training and knowledge transfer services is to pitch everything at the right level for busy yet usually experienced working farmers.
“It’s learning on a ‘need to know’ basis which really appeals to me as I can slot it in around my farm duties and other commitments,” says Dylan.
Dylan had no intention of becoming a farmer when he left Swansea University in 2011, but after only a few months of full-time farming at his family’s 360 acre beef and sheep farm near Llandovery he had a complete change of heart.
It was clearly the right decision for the whole family and Dylan (32) has now been farming at home for almost eleven years.
“I had always enjoyed helping out at home whenever I had free time, so I was very used to the practical side of farming, but having not studied agriculture at university, I felt there was much I didn’t know about animal health, soil and grassland management and all the other elements of farming that are critical to improving on-farm efficiency.
“It’s essential that as farmers, we each have the knowledge we need and systems in place to play our part in adhering to the highest standards of animal welfare, producing top quality livestock, while also protecting our natural environment and reducing our carbon footprint.”
Long term advocates of the Farming Connect Advisory service, which saw Dylan, his dad and other local farmers accessing advice on issues including nutrient management planning, carbon audits and grassland management, Dylan focuses much of his spare time on personal development.
Relying heavily on his local development officer, Alun Bowen, to keep him up to speed with what’s available, Alun has signposted Dylan – often accompanied by his dad – to numerous animal health and welfare workshops on topics ranging from flock fertility and lambing losses to maximising suckler cow productivity, lameness and land management. Dylan has also undertaken subsidised short training courses and regularly utilises the programme’s comprehensive range of fully-funded e-learning modules.
“Online learning, in short 20 minute bursts, with a quiz at the end of each module to ensure you’ve absorbed all the key information, is a really brilliant way of increasing your knowledge.”
Dylan has focused mainly on animal health topics as well as soil and grassland management because he believes strongly in adopting a holistic approach to the farm, with ‘best practice in everything we do’ part of their sustainability agenda.
“Thanks to my new knowledge and skills and by implementing some of the new systems we’ve learned about through Farming Connect, we now feed the stock far more efficiently.
“This has significantly reduced our inputs while enhancing stock performance and productivity and we’ve also reduced lameness levels.”
The family regularly body score and benchmark all their stock and say that faecal egg counting and trace element testing through Farming Connect has given them valuable information which means they have reduced their reliance on anthelmintics by adopting a more targeted approach.
With all his learning achievements stored online in his personal Storfa Sgiliau record, Dylan says the system is a helpful way to identify any areas which he still wants to learn about.
“Farming is an evolving industry so farmers of every generation need to know they are sufficiently clued up to face the opportunities and challenges ahead.”
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and funded by Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
For further information about all Farming Connect support services and training visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect or call your local Farming Connect development officer.