Jenkins and Rees Ltd have been in business since 1996 when I went into partnership with my uncle, David Jenkins, at the home farm, Trefere-Fawr, Penparc, Cardigan, Ceredigion.
Starting with our original 125-acre dairy farm we increased the acreage quite quickly by renting and purchasing land nearby and, in 1999, the decision was made to convert to an organic system.
As the business grew, Hedydd, my wife, joined the team and we rented another 130-acre farm from my parents, who took early retirement in Eglwyswrw, North Pembrokeshire about ten miles from the home farm. In 2007 the opportunity arose to purchase Treclyn-Isaf, a 130-acre farm originally owned and farmed by my grandparents, which adjoined the rented farm in Eglwyswrw resulting in a convenient 260-acre block which was all converted to organic.
In 2017, our only son Owain returned home after studying for three years at Hartpury Agricultural College in Gloucestershire, and we knew that the home farm, the base for the dairy herd, wasn’t going to be big enough to keep all four of us at home. This led to the big decision to build a new set up at Eglwyswrw. With housing for 300 cows, a 54-point rotary DeLaval parlour, handling facilities including automatic footbaths, drafting gates, AI race, a one-million-gallon slurry lagoon and a 120 x 30 ft polytunnel to house 60 calves, the new unit was up and running in January 2018.
Owain manages the 275 autumn-calving herd at Treclyn-Isaf, while at Trefere we have 130 spring-calving cows, looked after by a cowman and Uncle David who does all the feeding. Trefere is a fairly dry farm near the coast enabling early turn out from February to November (depending on the weather). I’m responsible for overall management of both units, ably assisted by Hedydd who manages the calves in both farms and takes care of all the paper work!
We employ three full time workers and four relief milkers covering both farms. All the boys are local, apart from our Polish team member, Krzysztof, who has been with us for the last four years.
Before the new set up started the herd was all-year-round calving, but, when everything was up and running at the new unit, we decided to split the herd, leaving the spring-calvers at Trefere and the larger autumn batch calving at Treclyn.
At the moment we are free of TB (the scourge of dairy and beef farms in West Wales) and therefore only Friesian/Holstein calves are reared as replacements. All other beef calves are sold before 42 days at local markets or at home.
Prior to the expansion of the dairy enterprise we used to grow around 100 acres of arable crops, a large proportion of which we crimped and ensiled for use as high-energy concentrate for all the stock. From this I developed a contracting business with help and support from Andy at Kelvin Cave Ltd, crimping and Agbagging for farms across Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire. Five years ago we decided to sell this business because of increasing time pressures as the farm business expanded.
Increasing dairy cow numbers meant we needed more forage so we decided to cut down on the arable acreage. Now the only arable crops we grow are harvested and ensiled as arable silage for the spring calving herd with the acreage reduced to around 50 acres.
To accommodate the new set-up extra land has been rented giving us a total of 850 acres farmed of which 300 is owned. A total of around 1200 acres are taken for silage each year in three cuts. First cut is usually taken in the first week of May, then every six weeks, weather permitting, and a total of 2000 round bales are made as silage as we have limited space for silage clamps. We aim to address this over the next few years by extending or building some more silage clamps to accommodate more silage and minimise costs and workload. We’ll also be doing our bit for the environment by reducing farm plastic usage.
The autumn-calving herd has recently been using out-of-parlour feeders. This is working very well, with feed being targeted for cows that are performing, rather than feeding a flat rate through the mixer wagon in a TMR to the whole herd, resulting in appreciable savings on costs. The focus this year for the spring-calving herd will also be cutting down on feed cost and making more from forage. The autumn-calving herd are being fed just silage and mineral with yeast which through the mixer wagon, and the computer system in the new rotary parlour is working on feed to yield, which is also linked to the out-of-parlour feeders. 50 acres of red clover and rye grass were undersown with the arable silage last year and hopefully will be cut in four cuts this year to produce high quality silage for the autumn calvers.
Also, about 300 store lambs are purchased from September onwards and fattened on grass over the winter months. This makes use of winter grass growth and helps to reduce the levels of dead material in silage swards in the spring.
Our aim for the next few years is to consolidate the business by cutting down on costs and getting a better work / lifestyle balance!