By Debbie James

A PEMBROKESHIRE dairy farm will have to reduce its milking herd by up to 60 cows or find an additional 180 acres of land to farm if the Welsh Government sticks to its decision to not include a grassland derogation option within the all-Wales NVZ.

The Lewis family milk 350 Holstein Friesians with an annual milk yield per cow of 10,300 litres, producing 4,910 litres of that from forage.

In 2018 they spent hundreds of thousands of pounds installing a 40-point rotary parlour and associated infrastructure to support herd expansion at Poyerston Farm, near Pembroke.

But, to comply with the new NVZ directive of limiting applications of nitrogen from livestock manure to 170kg/ha, they will have to destock or increase their land area, says Roger Lewis, who farms with his parents, Philip and Sheila.

“We will have to lose 50-60 cows and 30 from each of the youngstock age groups,’’ he calculated.

“We are not an intensive system, if we were we wouldn’t be able to grow 80 acres of crops which includes 50 acres of combinable crops.’’

Derogations in other UK regions allow grassland farmers to apply 250kg/ha of nitrogen from livestock manure over a calendar year, rather than the usual limit of 170kg/ha/year.

The current nitrogen loading at Poyerston Farm is 220kg/ha.

“We have driven efficiency within the business over the years, driven by AHDB and everyone else, and we are now faced with taking a backward step,’’ said Mr Lewis.

“To have to get another 180 acres to match the requirement of our stock numbers is crazy, and where will be get that land when everyone else is in the same position?’’

He believes that the decision to not include a grassland derogation has implications for 80-90 per cent of dairy herds in Wales.

The new dairy infrastructure includes a 1.5 million gallon slurry store which gives him sufficient storage for the five-month requirement.

But for others, the cost of storage, the practicalities of getting upgrades completed before the deadline and securing planning permission for new infrastructure, could be insurmountable, Mr Lewis suggested.