He invested £120,000 in a milking robot three years ago and says it is the best money he has ever spent.
“It has dramatically improved my quality of life, I don’t have to worry about being at home at certain times to milk and can enjoy time with the family,’’ says Ifan, who is married to Rowena, a primary school teacher; the couple have two sons, 17-year-old Huw, and Gwilym, who is 15.
He farms with his brother, Gwynfor, at Tyn Rhos, near Caernarfon, but as Gwynfor has decided to exit farming Ifan is buying his share and will take the farm forward.
The business covers 140 acres of owned and rented land. Grazed grass has always been an important part of the system at Tyn Rhos.
When Ifan was contemplating a switch to robot milking he based his research around robots used in grazing systems in Ireland.
“The Irish are really up to speed on this,’’ he says.
He was confident the system would work at Tyn Rhos and, when the abreast parlour needed updating, he took that approach and installed an A4 Lely machine.
From mid-April the system operates around grazed grass for six months.
The secret of integrating grazing with automated milking is to not over-allocate each grass break, to encourage cows to take themselves to be milked, Ifan advises.
Cows are given a fresh break at 2pm and 2am, accessed through grazing gates once they have been milked.
They have worked out these timings. “About half an hour before the gates change there is a steady stream of cows coming through,’’ Ifan ex
“When I go down to the grazed paddock at around 7am there will only be half a dozen low yielders left in there.’’
The cows were quick to adapt to the new system of bringing themselves in to be milked. Initially it took four days and nights of encouraging them through the robot before they went through of their own accord on the fifth day.
Cows are currently averaging 2.93 milkings every 24 hours.
The herd, a mixture of black and whites, Montbeliarde-crosses and Jerseys, produces an average of 10,000 litres of milk per cow per year – heifers 8,000 litres – at 4.6pc butterfat and 3.5pc protein. Milk is sold to South Caernarfon Creamery.
Most of the herd calves in an autumn block, from the beginning of September to the end of December.
The business has another source of income – an on-farm caravan site with 25 pitches.
The last two summers have been the busiest he can recall with visitors right up until the end of October when the site was closed for the winter.
It is a welcome source of income and Ifan also enjoys interacting with visitors.
“I like taking time out and talking to people, we encourage our visitors to see the cattle.’’
Should his sons decide that they want to follow his footsteps and farm for a living he is adamant that they don’t do so as teenagers.
Ifan, who is the NFU Cymru vice-chairman for mid-Gwynedd, studied agriculture at Aberystwyth and then travelled and worked in Australia and New Zealand before coming home to farm.
“Huw and Gwilym have an interest in the farm but I want them to have an education and see a bit of the world, to stand on their own two feet, before coming home,’’ he says.
“They will be a long time on the farm if they do decide that is what they want to do so they mustn’t come home until they have experienced a bit of life first.’’