Dairy farmer Rhys James from Duckspool Farm near Haverfordwest, has won the BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year competition, sponsored by Yara and DLF, is Pembrokeshire.

The announcement was made at an awards evening held in Aberaeron on Monday, September 11, jointly hosted by BGS and Mid Cardiganshire Grassland Society.

Mr James currently milks 419 cross-bred cows, calved as a block from February to mid-April and managed under a grazing-focused system.

With judging criteria encompassing grassland and forage policy, grazing and forage management, livestock production and welfare and how the farm approaches environmental issues, Mr James demonstrated attention to detail across the board.

Grazing is carefully managed and budgeted, with supplementation used strategically to support yield. A careful attitude to sward and soil management ensures good use of resources, including slurry, which can be stored for six months ensuring it is spread at an appropriate time.

On presenting the award BGS president Richard Corlett noted that the three excellent finalists made the judges’ decision a hard one to make.

In the final round of the competition, the three finalists selected from the regional winners are visited by the judging team. Unusually, this year’s final three were all dairy farmers, Mr James being joined in Aberaeron by two other exceptional entrants who had succeeded through the demands of the regional rounds.

Andrew Pounder from County Durham and Reggie Lilburn from Northern Ireland were highly commended by the judges for their achievements and quality of management. All three farms were strong family businesses with clear plans for the future.

Summarising the challenge for the judging team to determine the winner, head judge and 2010 champion Steve Brandon noted that all three finalists had strong points in their favour, particularly in gaining production from grass and forage and having well-considered systems.

Ultimately the winner had gained the greatest efficiency of production, with well budgeted and planned utilisation of grassland that allowed for controlled supplementation to manage shortages or slowed growth in a highly stocked system.

Alongside excellence in grazing focused dairying, other commendable aspects of the winning farm included utilising technology such as a GPS fertiliser spreader to enhance nutrient management as well as environmental measures.

The 2018 competition will begin next spring, entry details will appear on the BGS website britishgrassland.com.