Five years ago Chris Mossman, like countless other British farmers, found himself on a production conveyor belt.

The grass on his 500-acre farm at Nant y Fach, Llangrannog, was growing nicely because of all the chemical fertilisers he was chucking at it, his cows were chewing on it happily, and the milk they were producing was being sold on to the supermarkets. What more could a farmer want?

But in 2018, all the agricultural wisdom Chris had accrued after studying it at college and subsequently implementing it throughout his long and successful farming career came crashing down.

“Suddenly our cows became very moronic and started chewing stones, rubber, licking the walls, and anything else they could get their mouths around,” he explains.

“We’d already lost 500 cows as a result of bovine TB so things had now got very alarming. I started wondering whether it could possibly be something to do with our modern farming processes?”

As Chris confronted the mental and financial devastation of losing so much stock through TB, he began researching the possibility that his cows were also suffering from an acute phosphate deficiency as a result of the grass they were eating.

“We did some blood samples and their phosphate levels were absolutely rock bottom,” he says. “This was despite the fact we were giving our grass all the chemical fertilisers it needed to produce good food for the cows.

“The phosphate was in the soil, but it wasn’t being taken up into the grass, so the chemical fertilisers which I’d used for so long was having a kind of addictive effect on the crop and had altered the way in which the soil was working.”

This alarming revelation made Chris re-examine the way in which his grass should now be grown.

He knew he would have to wean his crops off the addictive fertiliser and adopt a more organic approach, but this could only be done gradually because of all the bovine mouths that needed feeding. His 500-acre farm currently stocks 300 milking cows, 115 beef stores and 160 replacement dairy animals.

The first thing he did was adopt a rotational grazing pattern structured around the rate at which the grass is growing.

“We measure the growth of the grass on a daily basis, so we know precisely how much it's growing," he explained.

"It’s then a simple question of maths, where the cows rotate around the farm, eating a certain area and then get moved onto a different patch, leaving that first area to grow again for between 30 to 60 days. The grass can then reach its genetic potential from the sunlight, and the photosynthesis creates the carbohydrates and glucose and all the flaura and fauna that will grow naturally.”

Chris has also opted out of mainstream ‘monocrop’ cultivation and has introduced a mixed species structure comprising clovers, chicory, herbs and a variety of grass species.

“It’s known that diversity such as this results in more production, but our chemical fertilisers have disrupted all of this,” he continues.

“Over the last 40 years, the vast majority of conventional farmers have increased the amount of chemical fertilisers they’ve been using as they’ve all been drawn down this road by political and consumer demand for cheap food. A few years ago 30 per cent of people’s wage packets was spent on food.  Today it’s 10 per cent.

“Farmers are angry and frustrated at what’s happening, but the power of the supermarkets coupled with the rules and regulations of the Welsh government mean they have to stick to the same formula because they’re underpaid so need to maximise their production..

“A litre of milk costs 63p in the supermarket and the farmer gets paid 35p. Yet we could sell it at the farm gate for 50p, meaning the consumer saves money and the farmer is still making a profit.”

Chris has now been joined at the family farm by his daughter Bella, 28 who is focussing on food production that can be sold directly to the consumer.  This is expected to include pork, beef and market gardening.

Earlier this month Chris's pioneering approach was embraced by one of the UK's leading farming organisations after he was named Grassland Farmer of the Year in the British Farming Awards 2023.

“Yes, it’s a great achievement, as there are hundreds of other really good farmers out there but it’s given me hope that despite my past farming life where things were done badly because of the way in which the industry is run, I’m now making amends.

“Our farm was severely de-stocked as a result of TB but we now feel that we’re beginning to come back to life.

“ All is ask, is that the consumers and the government start to realise the challenges that the farming industry faces.”