I am Jonny Wyatt Pearn Wyatt and Son, Norfolk.
What has been the main driver for change?
The farm is adjacent to a power station and we saw the waste coming out of it. We were seeing large amounts of straw rejected because it was out of spec. It was frustrating. So with my AD plant, and our cows, we realised that we could link all three parts and dry the waste bales and use them for cattle bedding.
It was a case of linking up all three resources: the waste out of the power station, the cows and the waste heat from the AD plant. We’re perfectly placed next to the power station as there’s not many empty miles between us so that’s good for the carbon footprint! You can see all the wet bales laying in our field that are ready for drying next week.
Describe the main steps you have taken?
Firstly, it was a bit of a research and development exercise. There’s not many of these machines about. We looked at different options such as splitting bales on a drying floor but the Kongskilde Ventus dryer is a specifically designed bale dryer. It’s a bit like a Heston baler in reverse.
We spent a lot of time investigating these, talking to the two owners of them in the region, one in Cambridge and one in Lincolnshire and were invited to view one. Plus lots of research and development with Kongskilde and worked alongside Marrison Agriculture; although they are traditionally grain storage people they happily got involved in this project. We decided that this machine was the one for us.
We then investigated and secured grant funding from the RDPE Growth Programme through the RPA.
What are the results of the changes you have made?
We are drying both waste straw and my own straw. We’re reducing the moisture of any bale down to practically zero. We have a dairy herd which is still in loose bedded housing where we now use the dried straw. Everything is just working a little bit better. We now have dry straw rather than the odd damp bale that is potentially increasing bugs in the cow bedding. Importantly, our somatic cell counts (a mastitis indicator) have reduced considerably, down from an average of 200,000 to about 140,000/ml. So we’re seeing a reduction in mastitis and improved cow health.
Our carbon footprint is one of the top 5% performers in Arla farms nationally. The reduced use of fertilisers and slurry management via the AD plant means that we are very good from a carbon footprint point of view.
We’re also generating income through selling our own straw that we baled last summer to the power station. We can do that because we’re replacing it with the rejected bales. And of course increased herd health, reduced mastitis cases, is also of great financial benefit as we’re buying less antibiotics.
How has AF helped you?
We currently buy all our animal feed through AF. We’re also hoping to work with them on my next tree and hedge planting project. We’re looking to plant 1000 trees in 1000 days. I’d like to do a lot of re-hedging too as many of the hedges have been taken over by ivy and I want to regenerate them.
We’re increasing the use of the digestate from our AD plant and looking to become more effective with our digestate use. That will be a real bonus in today’s climate. We grow a lot of grass and the digestate feeds the grass, that feeds the cows and they produce the muck to go in the AD plant. I’m really proud of that circular, sustainable model.
Go back 10 years, the centre of the farm was the dairy herd. Now the centre of the farm is the AD plant and the bolt-on’s are the cows, the straw drying and the digestate. We’ve recently put in a private wire from the AD plant to power the farm so we’re generating our own electricity. It’s a real change in farming practice over the last five years for us.