Michael Bray is one of the young generation of Guernsey farmers bringing innovation and business acumen that he developed farming in New Zealand and the UK.
Unlike many of our farms, Les Jaonnets wasn't in the Bray family generations before. When Michael returned from his travels, he featured in an article in the local paper talking about his intentions to return to Guernsey. Before they knew it, he and his wife Susie were taking over the reins at Les Jaonnets Farm on a long term tenancy after purchasing the cows from owners Bonamy and Margaret Martel. The Farm is 100 vergees, consisting of 55 fields with a further 500 vergees rented from various landowners in the surrounding parishes.
The Martel family who were the previous owners hold a proud Guernsey farming dynasty so Michael had a lot to live up to. Their pedigree Guernsey herd was once ranked the highest in the UK for their milk yield.
Michael was keen to uphold this reputation whilst adding innovative practices learnt farming in the UK and New Zealand. He used recycled astro-turf to reduce mud carried into the farm as well as improving hoof health and installed technology and infrastructure to allow rotational grazing enabling the cows to be outside more increasing milk from grass. He has also re-seeded the land to introduce more grass varieties to the diets.
Since taking the farm on in 2012, the herd has increased to 130 cows, producing 720,000 litres a year to the Guernsey Dairy. Individual cow yields have been reduced with the welfare and wellbeing of the cows a top priority. The hope is this will lead to happier, healthier cows that have a long life within the milking herd.
As well as his herd, Michael also has a passion for the environment and biodiversity. The farm now operates a more holistic, regenerative way of farming with the aim to improve soil fertility which in turn it is hoped will lead to a greater biodiversity on farm.
"Land management is crucial to the success of the farm but also to the local environment and I am always looking at ways that I can increase both grass growth and the biodiversity of unproductive areas as this has huge benefits for wildlife, flora and fauna. Guernsey's smaller scale farming and it's fragmented land tenure means we can farm in harmony with the environment with various crops grown alongside each other providing a range of habitats for wildlife to live in."