I visited Henbant some 20 years ago and was immediately struck by the grass growth in February and at around 700 ft above sea level rising to 800ft with a rainfall of 70 inches a year. With an extensive range of paddocks, this enables a large herd of cows to access fresh grass in all weathers, without excessive damage. The herd are mainly New Zealand bred Fresian cows with moderate body weight which make for ideal grazing cows.
The opportunity to expand further was presented when Hafod was made available a few miles away and was too good to miss. Cow numbers increased to 350 as the farm increased to 500 acres, a further 350 acres was added on a Farm Business Tenancy approximately 10 years later, and an additional 420 cows added at Hafod as the farm has grown from strength to strength. To utilise the grazing, a comprehensive range of cow tracks and water tanks crisscross both farms.
Cows calve from February to April starting in Henbant, and a month later at Hafod. The cows and staff both get a 6 week break from milking, typically around Christmas and the New Year. As someone who has milked cows for over 50 years, I can only imagine how precious that is for family life.
The milk they produce is sold to Dairy Partners in Newcastle Emlyn, where milk solids – protein in particular – are the main priority for the Mozzarella manufacturer. Eilir aims to sell each cow’s bodyweight in fat and protein per cow per year i.e. around 550 KG, and all from 1 tonne of purchased concentrate.
Typically, around 900 acres per year of grass is mowed for silage in numerous cuts. He also uses “Agrinet” to monitor weekly grass growth and measures grass growth with weekly plate meter reading. Throughout the grazing season, the farms typically produce 11-13 tonnes of dry matter/Ha, typically using 260kg of Nitrogen per Hectare. This is testimony to the quality of the leys and management of the team, also the productivity of the Fresian cow.
I asked Eilir’s thoughts on current NVZ aims of the Welsh assembly, which would limit fertiliser and manure applications outside of spring and summer. He was critical of their plans, as lots of grass needs to be produced in Feb and March for early spring milk production, prior to the traditional spring grazing season. To minimise the impact of current plans more slurry storage is planned.
Eilir is very complimentary of his staff, employing 4 full time plus 3-4 relief milkers. He is very keen to invest in his team and develop the skills they need going forward and was happy to pay for a foot trimming course recently.
Until his mid 30’s, Eilir played rugby for Aberaeron, after years of turning out for Newcastle Emlyn. He now coaches in Newcastle Emlyn in his free time. He a father of four and married to ex-schoolteacher Catrin. Their children are aged from 7 – 17, three of which study at Bro Teifi in Llandysul and the youngest still in Talgarreg village primary school.
He is also a big fan of “Merlin” discussion group which meet regularly covering grazing dairy farms all over Dyfed with support from Farming Connect.
When asked about the future, Eilir expressed the hope to be able to continue to run a simple, profitable business along with other parties and family members. He also stressed his indebtedness and gratitude to all those involved with Henbant and Hafod.