Dairy & beef (grass-based)
DAIRY & BEEF, DENBIGHSHIRE: Huw was brought up on a dairy farm but seeing his father struggling, and eventually having to sell his cows, put him off going into farming. While at college, however, he got himself a two-days-a-week job at a local dairy farm where he caught the farming bug, and after gaining a degree at Harper Adams he ended up taking back the family farm to run a calf-at-foot micro-dairy.
Huw’s methods were quite different from those he’d observed on commercial dairy farms. He decided to farm regeneratively, milking just three Red Poll cows (a breed that’s good for both milk and beef) which survived purely on grass. They were allowed to keep their calves and were milked just once a day rather than the usual two twice, which meant his milk could command a premium. Huw processed, bottled and sold the milk himself, supplying local shops.
Fourteen months later he was up to 15 cows, and was supplying three local coffee shops and several farm shops and stores. He’s now looking into investing in machinery that will allow him to expand the micro-dairy further. Female calves are kept to expand the herd, while the male dairy calves - often wasted on commercial dairy farms - are fattened to provide high-quality beef. The meat goes into beef boxes, sold via the farm’s website, or is sold to local restaurants.
Huw also has a small herd of beef cattle, created by crossing Welsh Black heifers with Wagyu bulls. They’re grazed on pastures that contains clovers, legumes, herbs and grasses, which provide the animals with valuable nutrients while at the same time providing fertility to the soil.
A regenerative nature-friendly approach is central to Huw’s way of farming. All his animals are grazed on grass, and in winter fed with home-grown hay or silage, which means carbon-heavy feeds don’t need to be bought in. The farm no longer uses chemical fertilisers or sprays, and he sows diverse herbal leys (a nutritional mix of herbs, grasses and clovers grown for animals to forage on) by direct drilling, rather than ploughing, to protect the soil structure. Animals are moved every few days to avoid compacting the farm’s soils, whose health Huw believes is crucial to the farm’s future.
“It’s extremely satisfying watching the wildlife slowly come back to the farm, and seeing the cows thrive on a natural, nutrient-dense diet whilst rearing healthy and lively calves,” says Huw. “Working with the public is also really enjoyable. I think that as farmers we could do better at engaging, so I’m keen to share my story and help educate people about how their food is produced here in the UK.”
Huw still works at his local dairy farm alongside running his own dairy farm, but eventually hopes to be able to devote more of his time to the family farm.
Agriculture’s effect on global warming. “We focus a lot on carbon sequestration to reverse the effects of global warming and I really want to show people how we use cattle to do this here, and how we’re going against the current trend 'more cows is better'. It annoys me when people give cows, beef and dairy a bad name when they have no real idea what is going on behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain beef/dairy farming practices in the UK that I don’t agree with, but I really want people to see both sides of the story before making these decisions about what they do and don’t eat. They might then realise that importing tonnes of food grown in monocultures under plastic poly tunnels in Spain isn’t actually saving the planet.”
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