30 Aug 2018

Farmer Focus: PG & S Williams, Leweston, Haverfordwest

The fourth generation Williams family farm in the heart of Pembrokeshire under Willhome prefix with their Pedigree herd of Ayrshires. The herd calves all year around and the milking herd are about 50 percent Ayrshire and the remainder Holstein along with their followers. The cows are milked in a 10/20 herringbone parlour and are on a semi TMR system, which is topped up in the parlour with cake depending on the individual's yield. The family use the CIS milk recording service on a monthly basis along with health testing.

Home Farm was under the tenancy of the Williams family from the 1930’s until 1991 when Philip and Sharon had the opportunity to purchase the farm. It has a private track running through the middle with a field either side and the soil is underlying with clay, in total there is around 120 acres. In the mid 1990’s they purchased another 80 acres farm approximately half a mile on the road north of Home Farm. This is used as land for silage cuts and also where the young stock is reared.  In the last three years a new youngstock shed has been built housing 100 heifers based on 10 pens with a straw yard, scraper passage and feed fence in the centre.

It is only since 1999 that there have been any Ayrshires on the farm, when Stuart became old enough and the family decided to have a go at showing. Commenting on showing Stuart says “With our Holsteins being ‘too small’ to compete in the show ring but ideal for what suited our system we decided upon Ayrshire. Our first purchase was from Teifi Herd. Since then we have built our numbers up from purchasing at various places including the Parcgwyn and Knutsford Herds. More recently we have purchased the Pam Ayrs Herd and the odd stand out individuals”.

“In 1999 we said we would keep them as pure as possible, and we have been able to so far with only having a few red and white Holstein or blended bulls but this is purely for the size of the animal. Granted one bull we have and do continue to use is Cuthill Towers Autumn Gold, he has produced some outstanding animals with us. A bull that followed him nicely is Legace Ristourn and more recently Willhome Challenger and a few select others are being used,”
adds Stuart.

As a family they have tried their upmost to support the breed by bringing a large amount to shows to promote Ayrshires to the general public. Since establishing the herd a crucial point has been that the family prefers to take the home bred animals into the ring, rather than bought ones wherever possible.

Over the years Stuart, his father Philip and mother Sharron have had much success in local, regional and national shows.  In the 5 years of the Haresfoot Vase being awarded by the society, they have been runner up twice and won it in 2013. Other major successes include winning Supreme Champion – Royal Welsh 2012 and in 2016 they won the Fitzhugh Dairy Pairs in the Royal Welsh with two homebred cows.

In recent years milk yields have decreased due to affordability and severity of the fluctuations of the farm gate milk price, however current lactations have definitely risen, and the family hope to be back averaging 8500 liters in the very near future.

The milking takes place twice a day with the cows split into two groups – highs and lows.  The cows are cubicle housed throughout the winter and grazing usually starts during April and ends in October. During the summer the high group is grazed during the day and housed at night with the lows out on a grass based system day and night.  According to milk yield the cows are topped up in the parlour with a TMR.  The herd is mainly closed with all followers reared on the farm, however on occasions a few animals may be purchased in.

The CIS milk recording service is used on a monthly basis along with health testing for BVD and Johne’s.  The biggest advantage of milk recording for Stuart is that the individual yield per cow can be tracked, reviewed and top up concentrate provided in the parlour.  The individual milk recordings also help make breeding decisions regarding bull choices.  The cell counts are also closely watched to keep out of the tank when necessary and to support culling decisions.

“One of the main reasons we use CIS is the Holstein and Ayrshire Complete Service that is provided.  It is cost effective and time efficient.  The regular classifying enables us to keep on top of scoring the animals giving all cows the chance to be seen by a classifier when they are at their best.  The Complete package has also with bull proofs, and this month we had our first bull, Willhome Challenger, go into AI.  He achieved number 1 of mammary trait with the Ayrshire breed and a daughter of his will be shown at UK Dairy Day in the Intermediate Cow in Milk class,” says Stuart.

Stuart is also taking two Brown Swiss cows to UK Dairy Day in Telford as he wants to support the society in what he feels is a fantastic step taking their National Show to a leading dairy event and central location in the UK.

Commenting on the future Stuart says “The industry is inevitably going to be volatile, but what is important is that dairy farmers save money when times are good to cover the hard times.  For the family farms diversification should be considered, either outside the industry or by obtaining a premium for the milk sold direct or through other routes”.