Pembrokeshire reinforced its reputation as the home of grassland as two members of North Pembrokeshire Grassland Society scooped major silage awards.

The achievements of some of Pembrokeshire’s best grassland farmers were celebrated with the Despite fierce competition throughout Wales, Keith Williams, of Haverhill Farm, Spittal, won the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies’ big bale competition, and Michael Williams, of Fagwrfran East, Puncheston, won the clamp silage competition for 2020.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions the winners are yet to receive their awards, but the judges were agreed that both are very worthy winners.

The two silage competitions are run in conjunction with RWAS and sponsored by BPI Silotite and Wynnstay.

The big bale competition gave judges Dr Dave Davies (Silage Solutions), Stuart Anthony (BPI Agri), and Alan Davies, Llys Farm, Denbigh (2019 competition winner) a very difficult task, since they felt that three were pushing more for production from forage based systems.

These were winner Keith Williams, along with Marc Jones, of Trefnant Hall, Welshpool, and Eurig Jenkins, of Pentrefelin, Talsarn.

They were all running farming systems where forage – whether freshly consumed or preserved – provided the majority if not all of the feed.

Keith Williams' silage analysis was, however, superior to all other finalists with 16.9 per cent crude protein and a metabolisable energy content of 11 MJ/kg DM. Keith feeds zero concentrate winter or summer and contract rears dairy heifers from one-year-old to one-month pre-calving when they return to the owner.

His system relies on high quality baled silage as the sole source of nutrition during the housing period, likewise summer feeding is solely grazed grass. The whole feeding and housing management system was simple but effective and his silage was devoid of any visible spoilage.

Judge Dave Davies commented: “The efficiency of utilisation and reduction in wastage improves each year. 2020 was the worst year for weather conditions in the last 15 years of judging and yet wastage was minimal.”

The judges failed to separate second and third places and so awarded Marc Jones and Eurig Jenkins as joint runners-up, with Edward Jones, of Parciau Home Farm, Marianglas, Anglesey, and Richard Isaac, of Mynachdy Farm, Ynysybwl, as very worthy regional winners.

This year’s All Wales Clamp Silage competition sponsored by Wynnstay also goes to Pembrokeshire. Lead judge, John Evans expressed his satisfaction on reporting what “a privilege it was to judge this year's competition”.

“We had two very good days, with a very difficult decision at the end ... since all five finalists were very close. We saw very well-made and extremely well-stored silages. All the finalists were keen to get the best out of their forage and the result was a close decision. The two days were made interesting by the range of techniques employed by the farmers, all of whom were determined to do a good job with their particular system.”

However Michael Williams took first place with David Lee Winnington Green, of Middletown, Welshpool, a very close runner-up.

Fagwrfran East is a 310-acre beef, dairy and sheep farm. The farm sits 85 per cent south-facing at 750ft on free-draining, acid, loamy soil. They milk 145 cows producing 11,300l/cow (4.1 per cent butterfat 3.5 per cent protein); as well as sheep and more than 200 young beef and dairy stock.

A total of 135 acres were taken for first cut, 110 as second and 100 acres of third cut – total tonnage ensiled 1995t. Analysis showed an ME of 12.7 and CP of 13.5 per cent

Runner-up entrant was David Lee whose family have a 450-acre dairy and beef farm with 420 dairy cows as well as 90 followers annually and 80 beef calves. Tack ewes are taken for wintering. Yields are 5300l/cow (4.74 per cent butterfat 3.82 per cent protein).

Three cuts were harvested last year (late April, June and July) with 128 acres taken for first cut, 136 for second cut and 111 acres for third cut. Total tonnage ensiled 1665t. Analysis also showed excellent silage with ME of 12.0 and CP of 16.2 per cent

The three other successful regional winners were Bryn & William Jones, of Ty Newydd Farm, Abersoch; Ben Williams of DR & AL Williams, Gwastod, Abermeurig, Lampeter; and Edward Williams, Pant-y-Cwcw Farm, Llanbadoc, Usk.

FWGS secretary Charlie Morgan said celebrating the achievements of the very best in Welsh farming would inspire others to raise the bar for the whole industry.

Mr Morgan also paid tribute to the judges who had travelled the length and breadth of Wales to visit the competitors, and through treacherous weather and floods, spending hours on each farm, seeing these farming operations first hand. The Covid-19 pandemic had impacted greatly but farmers continued to produce at very high standards.

He also thanked the sponsors for their support, notably BPI Silotite, Wynnstay, and Agri Lloyd for providing the analysis service for both competitions.