Colin Boggs wins BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year 2015

Colin Boggs wins BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Colin Boggs, a dairy farmer from Co. Down has won the UK Grassland Farmer of the Year Award, run annually by the British Grassland Society (BGS).

Winner with the judges and sponsors, from left Dafydd Jones (2014 winner & judge), Paddy Jack (DLF Trifolium), Colin Boggs (winner), Nigel Hester (Yara) and Glasnant Morgan (head judge) at the awards evening

The society’s president Dr. Jon Moorby, along with representatives of competition sponsors Yara and DLF Trifolium, announced the winner at a dedicated awards ceremony, near Machynlleth, Wales on Wednesday (23 September).

The event was hosted by Bro Dyfi Grassland Society, where last year’s winner organic sheep and beef farmer Dafydd Jones is a member. The runners-up were dairy farmer Gethin Brown from Pembrokeshire and Ralph Messenger an organic beef farmer from Dorset.

Head judge Glasnant Morgan, a sheep and beef farmer and former award winner, commended all three finalists for getting through three tough previous rounds of the competition which begins at a local level. He said “each of the finalists has displayed a commitment to superior grassland management to drive profitable and sustainable businesses”. The praise was echoed by fellow judges Nigel Hester of Yara and Paddy Jack of DLF Trifolium, who were delighted at the obvious benefits of good, well managed grass.”

The competition, which is open to full BGS members and nominations from local grassland societies from across the UK, scrutinises the farmers’ approach to areas such as grazing, crop nutrition, reseeding policy, silage-making and environmental management, as well as their overall business strategy, success and philosophy.

Thanks go to the competition sponsors Yara and DLF Trifolium for making the award and competition possible.

Winner!

Colin Boggs runs a 120 cow herd at Clover Hill Farm near Banbridge, Co. Down. Producing a rolling average of 6,530 litres per cow at 4.35% butterfat and 3.50% protein, just 666kg concentrates are fed per cow (0.1kg per litre), giving an impressive 5,161 litres from forage.

His attention to grazing management has a lot to do with Colin’s success, aiming to turn out as early as possible and keep grass at the leafy stage through using rotational paddocks and pre-mowing from the second grazing until the end of the growth season. Towards the end of the season grass is zero-grazed, meaning that grass grown further away can be used and keeping grass in the diet whilst also maintaining utilisation.

Calving from mid-January until mid-April, cows were out this year on 14th March by day and 5th April by night. Colin aims to make the best silage possible to contribute to winter feeding, taking the first cut this year in the third week of May.

All of Colin’s pastures are sown with varieties from the Northern Ireland recommended list, and he comments that pre-mowing helps them last longer. He makes best use of free nutrient planning tools to ensure cost-efficiency of inputs versus outputs.

Colin also demonstrates commitment to continuing development of his own skills for business, having recently completed a business management course, attending discussion groups and being part of the DARNI grass check scheme.

Runners up

The runners up include another dairy farmer, also influenced by the New Zealand model, and an organic beef producer making encouraging use of multi-species leys.

Gethin Brown, Pembrokeshire

Gethin farms 280 ha in south Pembrokeshire for James Bros Dairy, encompassing wetlands and sand-dunes, with 80% of the land falling into an NVZ. Grass measurement is central to many decisions made in the business, from how much concentrate to supply, when to cut paddocks for silage and which to reseed. A methodical approach is taken, with all grassland measured weekly following a review meeting with the team.

Gethin maximises value in his product by supplying a cheese contract, and only uses concentrate where there is shortfall in grass – not as a means to increasing yield.

A proportion of the farm is rented from the National Trust, with areas open to the public attracting over 300,000 visitors per year, and 25 ha in environmental schemes to encourage wild birds.

Ralph Messenger, Dorset

Ralph keeps 150 Aberdeen Angus beef suckler cows at Manor Farm, finishing heifers, steers and young bulls at a weight of 325kg, mainly forage derived. Ryegrass/clover swards, undersown whole crop silage, and herbal leys and home-grown rolled barley all contribute to the feed. Grass/clover silage is available ad-lib to fat cattle from July, whilst wholecrop silage is reserved for cows, calves and replacements. Herbal leys are strip grazed throughout the year and wetland under HLS are also useful in drought conditions.

Ralphs choice to farm organically has been in part due to a keen interest in promoting wader birds with water rail, snipe, little egret, cormorants and herons among those he sees on the farm.

Incorporating clovers and other legumes into leys is recognised as a nutrient, as well as feed, strategy, meaning that leys can remain high yielding without the use of artificial nitrogen.

Regional Winners

Many congratulations also go to the other regional winners of this year's competition; John Barber (West Midlands) and David Cooil (Northern) having narrowly missed out on making the final three.

Members

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Local Societies

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