Farmers speak of worries facing the dairy industry

One of the farming 'patriachs' on the Wales/Shropshire border, has been speaking about the challenges facing the dairy industry.

The NFU Cymru visits Calcourt Farms
The NFU Cymru visits Calcourt Farms

Maurice Jones and his son, Fraser, milk around 1,800 cows at Calcourt Farms, Lower Leighton.

They welcomed NFU Cymru Montgomeryshire members to their farms recently and talked of both the positives and worries of farming.

The father and son said cow comfort and welfare was at the heart of everything they did as a business, as "happy cows mean productive cows".

With two sites employing around 40 staff Fraser said one of the biggest challenges to the business was staffing, with the UK’s exit from the EU exacerbating the problem.

“For me management at Lower Leighton is about foreseeing any problems that might interfere with the day-to-day work and tackling them head on."

The family says one key threat to the business is bovine tuberculosis (TB) and is one of the reasons Calcourt Farms breeds all its own replacement heifers and utilises artificial Insemination and stock bulls.

“I have worked tirelessly with NFU Cymru and the North Wales TB Eradication Board to try and make inroads to defeating this disease in the UK,” Maurice Jones said.

“I cannot emphasise enough how it impacts the business and our mental health – something which many farming families are going through.

"I was very pleased with the formation of the NFU Cymru TB Focus Group, and I hope we can finally start reducing this disease’s effect on the industry."

Fraser said any opportunities that may arise for automation the business was keen to investigate if it could benefit the business in a reliable way.

The housing for the milking cows was designed meticulously to ensure comfort, health and welfare this includes the lighting.

“I researched many different dairy systems when implementing the changes here at Lower Leighton and the open sided-shed with controlled lighting means that high temperatures are less of an issue for us,” Fraser said.

They are milked through a rotary parlour and the whole milking process for each cow takes a total of around 40 minutes providing as little disruption for the cows as possible.

“Small margins make a huge difference for a business such as ours and so I take each little win as I can to build efficiency and profitability.”

A keen eye has also been turned to renewable energy through the installation of solar panels and a ground source heat pump. This also helps to reduce the energy costs when cooling the milk after milking. A slurry separation system has also been installed to reduce the storage demand.

Maurice has been an NFU Cymru member for over 50 years and his contributions and loyal attendance at meetings are highly valued.

NFU Cymru Montgomeryshire County Chairman Richard Jones said: “It was an absolute pleasure to visit with one of the county’s most prestigious farming families and NFU Cymru’s devoted members. What they are achieving with the milking herd and the support the family gives to each other is truly inspiring."

The next county meeting is on June 23 at the Cefn Coch Inn to celebrate the end of NFU Cymru’s Celebration of Welsh Food and Farming Week with a curry and a pint.

"We will be joined by Charlie Cooper-Harding our NFU Cymru Young Ambassador and Awel Mai Hughes, from Agri Advisor, one of NFU Cymru’s legal panel firms,” Richard said.

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