bfa shortlist

With a definitive approach to grassland management, Andrew Brewer is achieving consistently impressive results to boost efficiency on-farm and his bottom line. Sarah Todd finds out why learning from others and trial work have been integral to his success.

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Accolades from the farming industry are worth winning, says Andrew Brewer, current holder of the Grassland Farmer of the Year Award.

The Cornwall-based farmer, who was commended by the judges on his strong business plan and forward-thinking approach, has gone on to welcome new opportunities following his win.

He says: “It meant a lot to win and have the work I have put into grassland management over the years recognised.

“Sometimes farming can be an isolated job and to get the feedback others are interested in what you are trying to achieve, really does mean a lot.

“Yes, it was lovely to win, but the award is about much more than that. It was a coming together with a likeminded group of people and it went on to open other doors and opportunities.”

Andrew and his wife Claire have run a grass-based dairy system for more than 20 years.

Employing four full-time staff members, the business runs a 500-cow autumn block calving herd with 600 followers and beef reared on from the dairy herd.

With a huge amount of research and knowledge through travel, peer-to-peer learning and immersing himself in understanding best practices, Andrew has taken multiple approaches to continually improve grassland management at Ennis Barton, near Fraddon in mid-Cornwall, and, as a result, has achieved consistently impressive results.

Soil and animal health is central to maintaining the productivity of this farming system, with a focus on environmental sustainability and net zero latterly having enabled the business to make targeted improvements.

Involvement in a soil carbon project is providing direction for targeted dung, compost or digestate field treatments, while a farm net zero project is facilitating learning around how mixed swards and the use of cover crops can affect the business’ bottom line.


All stock on-farm are rotationally grazed on the 400-hectare (988-acre) farm across a mix of grassland varieties. This includes bull beef on ryegrass and clover swards, with youngstock predominently grazing mixed species with clovers red and white plantain and chicory.

Deep-rooting cocksfoot is also integrated to help increase soil carbon levels and assist drainage and drought resistance.

Digestate from a local digester is used to fully cover the land’s nutrient demands and slurry and dirty water is maximised using 100 per cent dribble bar application to the grazing platform.

Andrew aims to have the cattle outside on grass every day of the year.

“One thing I have learned over the years is that there is no wrong or right system,” says Andrew, who – as a senior GrassMasters discussion group member – has been able to take part in international study travel and study tours to further his learning over the years.

“Farmers looking for a one-size-fits-all solution to managing grassland will be disappointed.

“My advice would be to keep an open mind and learn everything you can from other farmers, as well as those who come to the subject from a more technical and scientific viewpoint.

“Then, take all you have learned back home and try and match your grass to your own cows’ needs. For example, we have our cows drying off at a time when the grass is naturally dying back. Then we have them calving
when the clover is coming through.”

The Brewers, who let some land for the production of potatoes and cabbages, retain all calves for replacements or beef finishing.

They are reared outdoors on grass and milk from seven days old, with males kept entire for rapid finishing at 13-14 months of age and beef heifers grazed with replacements until dairy heifers are mated.

Understanding growth links with soil temperature and moisture levels and the plants needed for available nutrients – as well as the importance of moisture in targeting the desired growth – are key areas of interest for Andrew.

Both drought and wet conditions highlight the need, he says, for using mixed species.

“When it is a dry time, the deeper rooting grasses come into their own, but it is not just drought we have to focus on. When it is wet, the right varieties can really help with drainage. The family have done a lot of work
with AHDB to help in the analysing of grazing herbal leys.

“It was very satisfying to be able to maintain cow milking performance while eliminating the need for artificial fertiliser,” says Andrew, who has carried out recording as part of the Farm Net Zero Programme in Cornwall.

The focus on grassland management has helped to reduce costs due to the lower inputs. Interestingly, there has been no reduction in cow performance or overall production.

The family has found that fat and protein percentages were lower in cows grazing herbal leys, but overall the yield on milk solids was higher due to increased volume yield.

“It is also good to see seeds for multispecies swards increasing in popularity,” says Andrew, who believes passionately that there is so much more to herbal leys than trying to qualify for subsidy payments, with benefits including their mineral exchange properties, carbon storage potential and resilience.

The Brewers have found herbal leys slower to respond in spring, with clovers and chicory coming into their own in hotter summer months; delivering a good steady growth curve.

Looking ahead, Andrew is optimistic there is more to come for Ennis Farm and, with continuous involvement with existing and new initiatives, he is determined to evolve and innovate within the sector.

“Enjoyment and profitability in balance is key for us and I love to challenge the perceived normal.

“My motto is there is always a better way and this is what we strive to look for.

“Winning the award has just given us the confidence to keep doing what we are doing and try to get a little better at doing it every day.


Stepping away from grassland management, Andrew and Claire Brewer have an interesting off-farm diversification – a fish and chip restaurant and takeaway called the Port and Starboard at Indian Queens, near Newquay.

Farming and fish restaurants have plenty in common, Andrew says, both involving early starts, lots of hard work and proving the importance of local produce. The enterprise is headed up by the couple’s daughter Rebecca, who was only 19 when she took it on, having previously worked as an apprentice at one of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s restaurants.

It was recently named as one of the country’s top 10 fish restaurants.

Andrew says: “The takeaway and restaurant is now also selling burgers made from our own beef. These are proving really popular and it is great to see everything coming full circle and customers enjoying burgers which have been produced on-farm. If the quality of the potatoes grown on-farm is good enough for chipping we use these as well.

“We invested in our daughter’s passion – the food sector – and it is very rewarding to see the farm contributing to her success.


  • Learning and trialling how mixed species swards and use of cover crops can affect the business bottom line
  • Incorporating trials comparing rumination levels between ryegrass and multi-species swards and comparing grazed grass with grazing waste crop residue (cabbage)
  • Grazing food waste for two months of year, which allows more grass to be harvested early in the year
  • Introduced probiotics to cow bedding to make a better availability of soil microbes and better feed for plants and improved animal health

A word from the sponsor

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