Andrew, Marisa and Kirstie Baird

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Changes made by the Baird family to the way they run their business have had a massive impact on improved efficiency and productivity.

Andrew Baird farms in partnership with his wife Marisa and daughter Kirstie, running a 200-cow, crossbred, robot-milked autumn block calving herd near Lanark, Scotland.

There are 81 hectares (200 acres) at the home farm, with a further 22ha (55 acres) four miles away, bought recently for youngstock grazing. In 2010, they moved to paddock grazing to increase whole farm production and at this time were milking 180 cows twice a day with a fresh paddock after milking.

The cows are happy to graze the paddocks to an average post cover of 1,495kg/ha (605kg/acre).

In January 2020, they started milking with robots and increased the herd to 200 cows. They operate an A B A, B A B grazing system, so cows get three fills of fresh grass a day. The third rotation is pre-mowed to maintain
grass quality and ultilisation.

As a result, both grass and milk production have increased, but at the same time, fertiliser usage has been reduced.

Soil sampling results showed low levels of P and K and, because of this, the grazing platform now receives 11,360 litres of slurry/digestate (75/25) mix in late February/early March via a dribble bar which is wider than a
trailing shoe so there is less tracking.

This is followed by 25-30 units of nitrogen per grazing until late August, with the aim of grazing until the end of October. Composted farmyard manure is generally spread on grazing areas.

Cows are averaging 7,675 litres from 1.8 tonnes of concentrate with 4,077 litres coming from forage. The aim is to increase milk from forage and the family closely monitor the herd, recording individual cow’s data provided by the robots to highlight the most efficient cows so they can be used to breed replacements.

Andrew says: “In light of increasing changing weather patterns and volatility, we aim to remain flexible and be prepared to adjust management accordingly.

“This might include using multispecies swards, changing the grazing pattern, as well as continually improving genetics to become more resilient."

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.

John Fare

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Over the last 15 years, John Fare, of Fare Farms, has transformed his dairy system to maximise the use of grass, with thought given to how infrastructure can help achieve this.

Block calving the 290-cow herd in spring and autumn has helped with the management of grass and silage supply as it minimises buyer’s penalty and utilises the kilos of dry matter grazed into the shoulders of the year.

A multicut grass silage system has been adopted to reduce reliance on bought-in concentrates.

Introducing cow tracks throughout the farm has enabled the traditional grazing period to be extended from May-October to February-November.

John says that by investing in the infrastructure of the grassland management system, he has been able to reduce the requirement for expensive machinery.

Soil samples are taken every two years to ensure nutrient levels are on target and clover is being used to reduce reliance on bought-in nitrogen. Soil health has improved since a paddock based grazing system was  adopted.

Grass is measured on a weekly basis and reported through Agrinet which has shown the growth has increased in total tonnes of dry matter grown.

John aims to mitigate the more extreme weather conditions now being experienced by improving soil health and is investigating diverse swards and how they might complement work which has already been done by
introducing more clover and reducing bought-in fertiliser.

Biodiversity is an important part of the farm’s ethos and wildlife has flourished over the years. The 10 miles of hedgerows across the farm act as wildlife corridors across the unit and a proposed willow bed will also enhance wildlife diversity.

The farm has its own sustainability plan and is actively reducing energy, water and bought-in feed consumption.

John says: “I am not afraid to try new ideas or to be different and I always look at the bigger picture. I believe attention to detail is crucial in both herd and grassland management and we have developed a simple, lean  efficient business, which provides an enjoyable working environment for the team.”

The positive approach has ensured he not only makes a profit in good years, but makes a consistent return.

What the Judges said

The judges were very impressed at how John ensured his business balances resilience and profitability, with a very clear vision. He is an excellent example of a forward thinking grassland farmer.