In a bid to future-proof their enterprise for the next generation, host of the Royal Welsh Grassland Event 2018 Martin Evans is successfully running three different enterprises alongside one another. Hannah Park reports.
A keen eye for an opportunity, drive and attention to detail means there is no let-up in expansion plans at Carnbwll, in Four Crosses, Powys, which is the base for first generation farmer Martin Evans and his family.
The Evans family farm 324 hectares (800 acres) across three sites, each focusing on a different aspect of the business which encompasses a 600-cow all year-round-calving pedigree Holstein herd, an agricultural contracting business employing 14 people, and most recently a 100,000 broiler unit supplying birds for a Faccenda contract.
A total of 34 people are employed across each, with Martin’s sons James managing the dairy and Josh the contracting and poultry. His third son, Will, is studying at Cardiff University.
An active supporter of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society for a number of years, Martin says he is keen to support the society’s Grassland Event as a way to share new ideas through various demonstrations and seminars.
Growing up on his parents nearby council holding before taking on 15ha (36 acres) of his own in Four Crosses in 1989, Martin established today’s contracting business here while working at his parents’ farm.
He later took a tenancy at the 73ha (180-acre) Priddbwll Mawr, part of the Sir Watkins Williams Wynn estate, and established a 70-cow dairy herd which provided the roots to build herd numbers up to where they are today.
The ambition now is to grow and develop the business.
Mr Evans says: “Since my sons have come back to the farm, it has given emphases to each enterprise and means I am not trying to manage it all on my own without a focus.
“All we have done differently is improved our attention to detail and made use of the technology and data out there, but it is also important to make business as dynamic as we can.
“The dairy has historically been the primary agricultural enterprise, but after the recent downturn in milk prices and the economic climate at the moment, we needed to be more diverse and sustainable for the next generation.
“We put up the broiler sheds, which was Josh’s idea, in January this year and are due a delivery of our third crop of birds soon.”
Managing this in unison with the existing dairy and contracting businesses is something the family has taken in their stride.
“With the business being as it is now, we have weekly planning meetings between myself, James and Josh,” Mr Evans explains.
“James is a shareholder in the dairy and Josh in the contracting. We have a five and 10-year strategy as business partners to discuss where we want to be.
“Succession planning has also been taken care of, so the three lads all know where that ends and where they come in.”
Since James returned home from Harper Adams University, cow numbers have continued to grow. In 2012, the family overhauled the dairy infrastructure, with improvements made to sheds and a 25/50 rapid exit BouMatic parlour installed. All the pedigree stock is registered and classified three times a year.
All followers are kept to aid expansion plans and fed on a straw-based TMR ration, with dry cows grazed for three weeks in summer months along with in-calf heifers.
Milkers are housed all year round and fed 22.5-23kg DM of mixed ration a day, made up of 60 to 70 per cent maize and the rest grass silage to produce an average annual milk yield of 11,700 litres at 3.65 per cent fat and 3.25 per cent protein.
The herd has a calving index of 383 days. Heifers calve at 23.8 months, and sexed semen has been used on heifers for the past four years. Heat detection is done via rumination collars.
“We run weekly routines to dry off cows and pull out those within three weeks of calving to put on a different diet,” Mr Evans says.
“Heifers and dry cows are foot-bathed once a week and milkers every day, plus we have weekly visits from our vet to PD and carry out post-calving checks.”
From May 2019, the farm will begin a new milk contract to supply Muller which Martin hopes will help them manage volatility.
“With the contract Muller is offering, it gives us the opportunity to sell 50 per cent of the milk at a fixed price,” he adds.
“We could have changed our milk contact or changed the way we farm, but what Muller is offering suits our way of farming better.”
The farm cuts 607ha (1,500 acres) of silage annually, with an average of five cuts taken each year using a multi-cut system, cutting every 28 to 32 days.
A total of 134ha (330 acres) of maize is also grown and clamped.
“The multi-cut system has meant we have increased forage intakes from 45 per cent to 54 per cent,” he says. “We’re at a herd average of 37.5 litres with around 45 per cent of heifers in-milk.”
Soil analysis of grassland is also carried out every two years and re-seeding is done, as a minimum, every five years.
“We also have a bespoke programme which tells us how much fertiliser and slurry to use at each application to maximise grassland potential,” Mr Evans says.
Expansion at a sustainable rate is central to the strategy, with the aim of securing the business for the next generation.
“We will continue to grow the business with the approach we have now, trying to eliminate volatility and be as efficient as we can be in what we’re doing to
secure its future.”