A DYFI Valley farmer’s involvement in a grass monitoring project has led to increased returns and improved business efficiency.

Richard Rees joined GrassCheckGB in 2022 and has since seen positive results; lambs were finished 55 days earlier last year than in previous years, and inputs have been reduced.

The farm is one of 50 sheep, beef and dairy project farms across the UK. They are expected to regularly measure their grazing platform throughout the grazing season and submit grass samples for analysis. This data provides a valuable source of local and regional grass growth updates with focused management tips produced for the farming community.

Along with brother Huw Llyr, Richard runs Penmaen Bach, a 60ha, mostly low-land family farm located near Pennal.

They keep a flock of 400 Aberfield cross ewes to Abermax rams and the aim is to finish all lambs off grass on a rotational grazing system incorporating chicory and plantain.

Richard said: “I have always been interested in managed grazing. Penmaen Bach‘s location means that it is a farm where grass grows well so we try to keep costs as low as possible by maximising on grass production and root crop use for wintering.

“But we were finding that fattening lambs off grass was becoming more and more problematic, despite undertaking faecal egg count (FEC) tests and treating as and if needed.”

Richard explained: “Our initial thought was that we had issues with minerals and nutrients in the soil. So, when we heard about the project, we jumped at the chance to participate and immediately analysed our minerals.”

All fields on the 220-acre farm were sampled and sent for analysis via GrasscheckGB. The results revealed that there was no cobalt active in the lower ground on the farm or the rough grazing soil. In addition, there were further low deficiencies of selenium, iodine and zinc in the fields.

Richard continued: “We immediately set to remedy the issue, by introducing boluses to the flock at the end of 2022. We have also been regularly measuring grass growth which is made easier by rotational grazing as we are not always dealing with low covers.”

Since making the changes, the farm has seen an annual saving of £4,000. Feed concentrates for the Aberfield x Abermax lambs was withdrawn in 2023, due to making better use of grass.

Richard said: “We saw a huge improvement in lamb sales last year. We finished taking the lambs off grass in September - an average 55 days earlier than in previous years - and they were fattened without any concentrates. We’re delighted with the results.”

He added: “The project has helped us to significantly reduce inputs and maintain production to finish lambs with no creep feed – they are all finished off grazing swards.”

Dr Heather McCalman, Research, Development and Sustainability Executive at HCC, said: “Penmaen Bach has demonstrated how using farm data, including weather records and grass measurements, makes it possible to make better business decisions. Obtaining data helps farmers plan ahead, improve productivity and efficiency.”