The sheep farm in the valleys aims to reduce its carbon footprint

A WELSH sheep farmer says carbon efficiency in farming needs to be balanced against the need for agricultural businesses to be productive and profitable.

Rhys Edwards, who runs a flock of 530 ewes and 180 lambs with his parents, Russell and Eira, at Hendre Ifan Goch near Bridgend, carried out a carbon audit of the farm in his role as the Farming Connect demonstration site. The audit showed the balance to be carbon negative (at -197.01) because the farm has high levels of soil organic matter.

The sheep flock is responsible for 49% of emissions, so the focus in the future will be on ewe efficiency and lamb growth rates.

Mr Edwards told a recent Farming Connect ‘Demo Farm Live’ webinar that he opted for the Farm Carbon Toolkit because it is the only one that recognizes carbon sequestration in its calculations.

Rhys said he was taking steps — including setting a target weaning lambs at 65% of ewe weight — to reduce emissions from the flock. Ewes weigh 65 kg, so if 1.65 lambs per tupped ewe are raised and lambs average 26 kg at weaning, the target of 65% adult weight will be achieved.

“I don’t think we can physically do anything more to be carbon friendly, and reducing emissions has to go hand-in-hand with running a profitable food production business,” Rhys said.

Improvements will be sought in post-weaning growth rates, as performance can be a challenge in the fall due to grass availability and micronutrient deficiencies.

Independent sheep consultant Dr Liz Genever, who worked with the farm on this project, said the more days the lambs spend on the farm, the more they eat and the more methane they produce.

FARM FACTS

  • Hendre Ifan Goch is a 91 hectare (ha) farm in a very deprived area managed by Russell and Rhys Edwards.
  • The farm, which rises from 600 feet to 1,300 feet, is home to 400 Aberfield mules, 200 Welsh mules and 130 lambs.
  • Herd performance is recorded and slaughter decisions are based on this data.
  • A rotating pen system was created to graze the herd.
  • Forty acres of chopped silage are harvested in June.
  • The flock is housed early for lambing starting March 5 and fed a total mixed ration (TMR).
  • The lambs are weaned at 12 weeks and sold deadweight to Dunbia or Kepak.

DIVERSIFICATION

  • A 5.5 kW hydroelectric generator produces an average of 27,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.
  • In 2000, the family created an agricultural park and a trout fishery; this site is praised as a very successful wedding and event venue.
  • In 2013, a caravan and camping park was created.