IBERS urge farmers to crunch the numbers and take the credit

“Make the numbers work for you” will be the message of IBERS, Aberystwyth University to farmers at this year’s Winter Fair as they  endeavour to juggle costs and make the appropriate winter feed management options. 

“The clear message from this year’s Royal Welsh Show was that farmers had reduced the use of fertiliser in response to a corresponding dramatic increase in fertiliser costs, said Dave Davies, IBERS Outreach Manager.  

“One should not underestimate the value of improved forage legume varieties, including red clover, which fix atmospheric N and are a source of high protein feed. This improves farmers’ ability to utilise farm-grown forage, reduce the import of feeds and nitrogen fertiliser onto farms and improve animal performance as well as meat and milk quality."

Red clover varieties that are higher yielding and have enhanced quality for silage making have been developed over the years at Aberystwyth.   Fertiliser costs can therefore be reduced without the loss of nutrient values. Carbon footprint is also reduced but the profitability of beef, sheep and dairy enterprises is improved, along with a decrease in the use of energy. 

Due to the  costs of the ‘three Fs’; feed, fuel and fertilisers, farmers are looking closely at feeding options for the autumn/winter period.  Making best use of grazed grass remains the first goal, after which there is a range of forage crops that can fill the gap and reduce housing and finishing costs. Targeting forage quality to the needs of livestock forms the basis of this year’s GDC farmer competition at the Winter Fair, where the winner will receive a Christmas hamper.

Visitors to the IBERS stand will also receive a progress report on a £1M research programme co-ordinated at Aberystwyth University, which could impact positively on cardiovascular disease and have far-reaching health benefits for the wider community.

The government- and industry-funded programme, now in its second year, focuses on  developing the potential of perennial ryegrass to deliver a higher content of  omega-3 rich polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) into the beef animal, and ultimately to man.

“We are looking to demonstrate the linkage between improving the nutritional value of beef and its impact on cardiovascular disease, a major disease in man” said project leader, Nigel Scollan.

“The research supports the delivery of safer, healthier, nutritious, functional and varied food products, which respond to consumer expectations.”

Other elements in IBERS' display will include research on energy crops and an update on the 'Willow for Wales – Helyg I Gymru' demonstration project run by Grassland Development Centre's Chris Duller. 

With margins on livestock systems getting tighter and tighter, there is a real incentive for farmers to look at other possible land-use options such as growing biomass crops. The Willow for Wales project has demonstrated that short rotation coppice willow can be successfully grown across the country, with growers taking advantage of a very strong woodchip market to provide a separate income stream to the farm. 

These displays include figures on costs and benefits to the farm allowing the farmer to calculate for himself the credit he can achieve.

Many of these issues will come together at a special breakfast event hosted by Prof. Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS, who will have his first public opportunity, since being appointed during the summer, to share his vision with the farming community and show how important the Institution is to the future of farming in Wales. 

"Increasing pressures on land for both food and fuel production, together with the increased global demand for meat and milk products, mean that now is a good time for UK agriculture to benefit from existing and new scientific developments where IBERS in Wales plays such an important role", he said. 

“Again, as at the summer Royal Welsh Show, the key focus is to give farmers in Wales more options in a changing world and show them how they can utilise the research outputs of IBERS to help provide sustainable responses to farming challenges”, said Dave Davies. 

Further information:

Emma Shipman, Publicity and Events Officer, IBERS Business Office, Gogerddan, Aberystwyth University 01970 823002 /  eos@aber.ac.uk

Arthur Dafis, Press and Public Relations, Aberystwyth University
01970 621763 / 07841 979 452 / aid@aber.ac.uk 

The Winter Fair is being held on the Royal Welsh showground at Builth Wells on Monday and Tuesday, 1st and 2nd December. IBERS’s stand is located on the balcony of the Livestock 1 complex where mulled wine and mince pies will be available from 11.00 am on Tuesday 2nd December.