Chris and Bella Mossman

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Tough times pushed Chris Mossman to transform his farming system starting by improving soil health and diversifying his grassland.

For many years, he farmed profitably, running what he describes as a ‘traditional farming system’, but reoccurring TB outbreaks and other cow health issues led to a change of plan.

Since 2018, the aim has been to find different ways to manage the farm and move away from dependency on chemical fertilisers, purchased feed, wormers and antibiotics, without any grant or support, and remain  profitable.

Over time the herd has expanded from 100 cows to 400, which have been specifically bred for grass-based production. They are spring calved in an eight-week block ahead of the grass growth curve to maximise grazed grass, producing a high milk solids output.

The first 11 hectares (27 acres) of multi-species were sown in 2018 and, since then, all reseeds have been diverse swards, with both cutting and grazing mixtures used.

There is also a nitrogen reduction plan in place. Having traditionally used 300kg/ha (121kg/acre), by 2022 this had reduced to 126kg/ha (51kg/acre), with the eventual target being 50kg/ha (20kg/acre), with none used on the multi-species swards and the aim of producing 12 tonnes of dry matter/ ha (4.9t DM/acre) in the 2023 season.

This progress has been made by correcting soil chemistry, moving away from monocrop ryegrass to mixed species pasture, no ploughing, foliar applied fertiliser, limiting slurry use and only using a trailing shoe.

The future challenge is to continue to reseed the whole farm with diverse pastures, learn how to manage them and sustain their diversity.

Chris says: “We need to learn what the farm’s sweet spot is for maximum sustainable output, cashing in on the free energy of sunlight and photosynthesis and reducing the need for expensive fossil-derived energy.

“By default this will reduce climate change emissions, restore soil health, improve water infiltration and water holding capacity.”

Chris has been joined in the business by his youngest daughter, Bella, and with the changes already implemented, her ideas for diversification and beginning to invest in renewables, the family are confident they will be farming their improved land for generations to come.

On winning, Chris and Bella said

“We were not expecting this win tonight at all. Innovating within the grassland sector of agriculture is crucial particularly to give businesses a real point of difference. We entered the awards and it just made us think about the wider picture.”

“It’s great to be here tonight and be around other people just like us wanting to be the best they can. It is a privilege to produce the country’s food and be part of that story.”

What the Judges said

In the face of adversity, they have innovated to develop a resilient pasture system, which is an example to the rest of the industry. A strong father and daughter team, with an ambitious vision for the future and pasture at the heart of the farming business.