Marc started on his regenerative farming journey when he started supplying Grassroots Farming two years ago. He had already started experimenting with different types of grass varieties to improve the farm’s soil health and overcome climate change, with the farm’s south-facing soils prone to burning off during the summer.
Trefnant Hall Farm boasts breathtaking views of the Welshpool Valley and has been home to Marc Jones since his father took on the tenancy of the farm from Lord Powis in the eighties.
Native-bred cattle live outside year-round and graze species-rich pastures buzzing with insects and wildlife.
Marc has been experimenting with 10 species including indigenous grasses such as timothy, cocksfoot, and tall fescues, to find the perfect combination to thrive on the farm’s tough terrain and survive dry summers and harsh winters with land climbing to 1,200ft above sea level.
“In our hedges, Birdsfoot trefoil and cocksfoot are in abundance naturally, so we have been putting these in the mixes because they are here for a reason.”
This is already delivering an abundance of wildlife. At the last bird count, 50 birds were spotted – including Red Legged Partridge, Greenfinch, Peregrine falcon, and Red Kites. Furthermore, the farm is now a habitat for hares and dung beetles, the latter of which contributes to improved soil health.
This rapid progression from monoculture grasses has helped build soil carbon stocks by 9.45 tonnes per hectare in the past two years alone, independent audits have shown.
Native breeds of Longhorn and Aberdeen Angus-sired cattle from dairy farms are purchased as weanlings in January. Calves are acclimatised onto a forage-based diet before being turned out to grass.
“We are constantly challenging what we are doing to improve. This year have sown half of the field in fodder beet and left the other half in grass to provide a lie-back area for stock and limit nutrient run-off,” says Marc. He has reduced chemical inputs and the aim is to cut these out altogether in the next six years.
Cattle are finished at grass during their second summer aged 24 months. Healthier soils have led to healthier animals. In turn, this is helping Marc to lower his wormer use to just one dose with animals monitored regularly by taking dung samples.
Being part of a sustainable supply chain, where farmers are paid a premium price and given guaranteed returns three months in advance, is helping to improve profitability.
“The premium we receive is allowing us to improve our resilience against weather extremes by reducing our stocking rate and lowering our inputs.”
The transition has also improved system simplicity which is allowing Marc to spend more family time with his wife, Anna, and their two children, Gethin, 10 and, Oli, 6.