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Revolutionising Dairy Farming: Inside the Thomas Family’s High-Tech Farm in Pembrokeshire

Rachel Rose

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| Jun 10, 2024

Sion Thomas and his family

In Pembrokeshire, West Wales, the Thomas family carries a rich legacy of dairy farming. Sion Thomas, a fourth-generation dairy farmer, manages a 1200-acre farm in partnership with his parents, wife, and two children. Together, they oversee one of the largest registered Dairy Shorthorn herds in the UK, a testament to 70 years of dedicated breeding.

The Thomas farm is home to 750 Dairy Shorthorn cows, renowned for easy calving, long production life, high milk production and feed efficiency. The herd is managed through a split calving system, with 60% calving in the spring and the remainder in the autumn. This approach ensures a consistent milk supply throughout the year and aligns with the farm’s extensive grazing system, optimising pasture use and animal health.

In recent years, the Thomas family has made significant investments to enhance farm efficiency and animal welfare. A 70-point rotary parlour, one of their most notable upgrades, has revolutionised their milking process. This advanced system has reduced milking times by more than 50%, allowing for better herd management and improved overall productivity.

70 point rotary parlour
Calf housing

The commitment to innovation extends to their state-of-the-art calf rearing facilities. A purpose-built shed can accommodate up to 200 calves, ensuring they receive the best start in life. The parlour is equipped with a transfer line that pumps milk directly into holding units in the calf shed.

From there, a mobile milk tank heats, pasteurises, and accurately dispenses the milk into a multi-teat feeder, tailored to the age and needs of each calf group. This system not only improves feeding efficiency but also enhances calf health and growth rates.

For the Thomas family, the health and well-being of their herd is paramount. Ensuring calves thrive from birth is critical to the farm’s overall performance and efficiency. By closely monitoring each animal, they can identify lower productive cows and implement a strategic culling plan to maintain high herd standards. Fertility is also a key focus, as it directly impacts farm profitability.

Tech-Driven Dairy: How Herdwatch Transformed the Thomas Family’s Farm Management

Sion and his family have been using Herdwatch for over five years now, and it has revolutionised the way they manage their dairy farm. Transitioning from a combination of complex software and written records, Sion found Herdwatch very easy to set up and use, which was crucial when choosing new software, as they wanted the entire family and staff to be able to use it effectively.

Recording births, deaths and movements has become much more streamlined with Herdwatch saving time and increasing efficiency on the farm.

“I love the batch registration as we register a big group of calves together.”

Cows at grass

Herdwatch has also helped to improve breeding management, thanks to notifications for expected heats and repeats, as well as lists for scanning and vet checks. This functionality eliminates the need to manually check individual cows, saving valuable time.

“The biggest benefit of Herdwatch is having all the cow’s information in your pocket, that can be easily accessed at any time.”

While Sion and his family still use NMR herd companion for detailed milk records, they find the Herdwatch Milk Insights feature handy for quick access to the latest SCC or yield data when checking cows in the field or shed.

Preparing for farm inspections has never been easier! Sion comments: “Herdwatch gives exceptional action list/reports before your farm inspection.”

“In a recent inspection, the inspector commented on how well the lay out was on the medicine usage report and how it had all the correct and relevant information. Herdwatch provides peace of mind that you have all you need for an inspection at your fingertips.”

On the pasture management side, Sion has recently mapped the entire farm and now records all paddock inputs such as chemical fertiliser applications, manure applications, spray and any reseeding and crop rotations. Sion is looking to also input grass measurements in the near future.  This feature is particularly valuable with possible new Welsh regulations on the horizon.

As the Thomas family continues to embrace technological advancements in dairy farming, their commitment to efficiency, animal welfare, and regulatory compliance remains unwavering. With Herdwatch seamlessly integrated into their daily operations, they are equipped with the tools to navigate the complexities of modern farming with ease. As pioneers in their field, they serve as an inspiring example of how innovation can revolutionise traditional practices, ensuring sustainability and success for generations to come.

To join Sion and over 22,000 farmers on the Herdwatch app, simply download the app for free today!

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