bfa shortlist

2022 Grassland Farmer of the Year

Ennis Barton,

ANDREW Brewer and his wife Claire have run a grass-based dairy system for more than 20 years. Employing four fulltime staff members, the business runs a 500-cow autumn block calving herd, aiming to graze cows every day of the year utilising on/off grazing techniques. Some land is also let out for the production of potatoes and cabbages. All calves are retained for replacements or beef finishing and 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.

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. “Initial data on this suggests very little difference in rumination between sward type,” says Andrew. “Some milk constituents have been seen but more results are needed. The global need for more food and the ability to put a vegetable crop onto a livestock farm to improve quantity and quality of human nutrition should be pursued. “Increasing nutrition density and getting cattle eating crop residue, rather than contributing to food waste totals, are vital – we are grazing food waste for two months of the year, which allows more grass to be harvested earlier in the year.

“Understanding if carbon and other nutrients are replaced by regrading is a project I am very much excited by.” Challenging his own thinking and possibilities is also a big driver for Andrew who, as a senior GrassMasters discussion group member, has been able to partake in international travel and study tours on several occasions. Business succession has also been addressed to future-proof the financial side of the business, with the couple’s children brought into business discussions from an early age.

What the judges said:

“The judges commended Andrew on his strong business plan and forward-thinking approach. They were particularly impressed with the approaches he had taken to continually improve grassland management at Ennis Barton and consistent results he was achieving as a result. His approach to sustainability and Net Zero goals also impressed the panel who felt he had a good grasp on where the business was at in this regard and where it needed to be in the future. The judges also praised Andrew for this approach to succession planning and risk spreading, both which were evident in his business model.”

On winning, Andrew said: 

“I am really surprised to have won and really delighted. We are involved in a lot of research and its important we get better every day. This award shows life isn’t about big improvements but every day improvements. “