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Stackyard News Oct 06

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Isle of Man dairy farmer reaches final of British Grassland Society competition

Isle of Man dairy farmer Paul Fargher has made it through to the final of the fiercely contested competition run annually by the British Grassland Society, and sponsored by DLF Trifolium and Kemira GrowHow.

Paul’s cows out enjoying some late summer grazing.

Baldromma Farm

The National Grassland Management Competition sets out to find the farmer who best demonstrates excellence in the management of grass and forage, leading to profitable livestock production and care of the land.

Paul is a first generation farmer who has built up an impressive dairy business from very little, over the past 18 years. By working hard and setting and achieving physical and financial targets, he has transformed a run-down beef farm in the wet and windy east of the island, into a highly successful dairy unit.

Paul took on the tenancy of Baldromma Farm in 1999 which runs to 91ha (232 acres). He built a new dairy for 130 cows and doubled the original herd from 70 – buying in replacements to speed up the process. The cows now yield 9,550 litres a year, calve all year round and are fed grass and wholecrop silage all year, with concentrates offered in out-of-parlour feeders.

Crops are grown in an eight year rotation- two years spring wheat then one year spring barley, under sown with a grass and clover ley, which stays down for five years. This constant re-seeding allows the latest varieties to be introduced which means the overall quality of the grass is very high. Stubbles from the wholecrop cereals are sometimes drilled with stubble turnips to provide material for grazing dry cows and youngstock in the autumn.

Farm manures are regarded as an asset rather than a problem, and the sandy/stony soils allow spreading throughout the year. All fields are soil tested regularly and the results used to formulate farm fertiliser policy.

“Paul farms in a very business-like manner,” comments SAC’s Dr Dave Roberts, who is chairing the competition judging panel. “While gross margins per cow and per hectare are very important, he is acutely aware that it is the management of fixed costs which ultimately drive the profitability of his business. He has set Baldromma up so that it can be farmed almost single handedly. The use of contractors and part time staff keeps labour and machinery costs to a bare minimum.”

Paul is also keen on improving the natural features and wildlife habitats on the farm. Inaccessible areas totalling 1.2ha (3acres) have been planted with mixed deciduous trees, and 1.5 miles of fence lines beside waterways have been moved to allow natural regeneration of habitats.

“Paul, like the other two national finalists, is not only an excellent grassland manager, but is also very good at growing and utilising a range of other forage crops that fit well into the overall farming system,” says Dr Roberts. “It has been a pleasure to visit his farm, and he certainly deserves his place in the final of this year’s competition.”

The Final
The climax of the competition comes on 9 November when the three finalists come together in Gloucestershire to make a short presentation about their farms to the judges. The winner will then be announced and awarded the coveted Kemira Trophy and a cheque for £500.

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