Moelogan Fawr, in North Wales, runs across a rugged landscape, rising from 1,000 to 1,500 feet above sea level. The 750-acre property, on the western edge of the Hiraethog Mountain Range and overlooking the Conwy Valley, is farmed by Llion and Sian Jones. The couple were National Trust tenant farmers before taking on Moelogan Fawr, which has been in Sian’s family for three generations. In managing the farm, they have embraced innovation as they drive their operation forward.
As well as running a mixture of Welsh and crossbred ewes, Llion and Sian are breeding Stabiliser cattle. It’s a change from the cattle that were on the farm when Sian was a child. “Some of them were wild,” Sian recalls. She appreciates Stabiliser for their docility, as well as the ease with which they calve. “As you breed them, you just see their benefits,” she says.
Llion’s family has a background in show cattle. Sceptical of the less traditional breed, he was quickly won over by Stabilisers once he started working with them. “Our plan was to get the Stabilisers and put Belgian Blue or Limousin on them but once you calve them you don’t want to go back, because you don’t have to do anything with them,” he says. “There’s a knock-on effect: after calving they’re not struggling, so they put condition on and get back in calf easily. Then they’re in good condition for the winter.” That’s especially important with the rugged conditions in the uplands of North Wales.
Llion and Sian don’t leave anything to chance with their Stabiliser cattle, performance recording livestock to determine which animals perform the best in their system. AI is used for all the cattle, with bulls selected by their Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to improve each cow’s genetic gain.
All heifers are retained as replacements, as the Joneses increase the size of their breeding herd. The best of the male offspring are sold as breeding bulls and the remainder are finished as bull beef on farm, growing to 640kg at 12-14 months.
The bulls are weighed monthly, and their performance tracked closely. “If you don’t do it, you don’t know they aren’t performing until you can visually see it,” Llion says. “And by then it’s too late.”
Knowing exactly how their cattle are tracking means Llion and Sian can rectify any shortcomings swiftly, separate underperformers, and time their sale to perfection, avoiding penalties for overweight or underweight cattle that go to processors. All in all, it adds up to more control of their product.
As a Stabiliser Multiplier, recording performance traits is essential on Moelogan Fawr. Cattle are recorded for 13 traits in total, and these are submitted to the Stabiliser Cattle Company for analysis and EBV formation.
The data the Joneses collect is especially valuable thanks to AgriWebb farm management software. Records made in the field are synced to the cloud, ensuring information is accurate and up to date. Reports that took hours to collate are generated at the press of a button; Llion and Sian are particularly fond of the Weight Insights feature, which makes it easy to see how their cattle are performing. They also appreciate being able to manage their sheep operation on the same software, when they previously needed a separate program.
In the past, simply recording animal weights was a tedious task – taking tag numbers and weights, then spending evenings in the office, transferring that information onto a computer. “Now when we come to the office, we are looking at the data and making decisions based on it, instead of just inputting it and forgetting about it,” Sian says. “That’s a big bonus.”
AgriWebb has also proved a powerful tool for pasture management. The GPS-enabled mapping feature has made it easier to mark out two-hectare paddocks for rotational grazing, while grass measurements and cattle movements are recorded in the field, in real time.
Llion and Sian joke that AgriWebb has also helped to prevent family arguments – with everyone on the same page, their whole operation can run more smoothly!