Growing Better Connections meets Dolau Llwydion – ON FILM!
This film captures some of Stephen and Peter’s skills and experience, which we’d love to share with you all. We hope you enjoy it!
This Summer, Growing Better Connections project officer Louise Cartwright met farmers Peter and Stephen Weekes to discuss their farming practices. Peter and Stephen manage their farm in an interesting and sustainable way. Combining holistic thinking and sustainable farming methods.
When the Weekes family arrived at Dolau Llwydion over 40 years ago they planted new hedges to act as shelter belts for their livestock, laid existing hedges and started to manage their woodland sustainably for firewood as well as fence posts.
The hedges of Dolau Llwydion provide shelter for their livestock and act as a haven for wildlife, with veteran trees every 10 (or so) metres along the hedge lines.
The farm was a dairy until 2017. The Weekes family made the decision to raise a suckler herd due to the increasing costs to produce enough milk to remain competitive. For example, ‘cake’ a supplementary Winter feed for cows, costs approximately £32,000 per year excluding the costs to harvest the Winter fodder! This decision wasn’t taken lightly… Peter’s father milked cows all his life and argued that milking produced a reliable and regular income –
‘Down the parlour the money is made’. However, Peter’s mother had a counter argument ‘Down the parlour the money is lost!’
Present day, 24 acres of barley and oats mixed with rye grass is grown each year. The barley and oats are milled to feed the cows during the Winter using the Weeke’s in-house combine harvester. Once harvested, the cattle and sheep graze on the rye grass. All the barley and oat straw is used for bedding the cattle, which are housed from Mid-September until early April. Peter and Stephen also ensure that both silage and hay are produced on the farm, to supplement their existing Winter feed.
Peter’s mantra for land management is ‘you can’t fight nature; you need to work with it’.
This approach is practiced in their management of soil fertility. For example, no muck spreading happens in the Winter, the piles are stored until the Spring and spread from March onwards. This reduces run off and means with rising temperatures that the muck is incorporated into the soil more readily. The Weekes practice this approach on their 24 acres of corn fields – making sure to spread the muck before the subsequent crop, as barley and oats area a hungry crop.