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Stackyard News Nov 2010

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Welsh Sheep 2011

Visitors to NSA Welsh Sheep 2011 on 18 May next year can update on the latest industry trends and see how a traditional Mid Wales family farming enterprise rising to 300 metres above sea level has developed.

John (left) and Dafydd Jones
John and Dafydd Jones

The setting is a 440 hectare holding run as two separate units by brothers Dafydd and John Jones and spread over three consecutive valleys. The event will be based at Maesllwyni Farm, Penegoes, Machynlleth, with the farm tour taking in Maesterran.

The two farms were divided in 2006 between the two brothers with Dafydd and his wife Glenys farming in Maesllwyni and John and his wife Carys farming Maesterran. John and Dafydd's parents, Edryd and Gwenan Jones, now semi retired bought Maesterran in 1970.

The system has been organic since conversion in 2001 and the brothers have been selling organic beef and lamb since 2003. Most of the finished lamb and beef goes to Waitrose.

There is a total 2,000 ewes, 1500 mainly texel x ewes, crossed with Texel, Charollais, Suffolk and Charollais x Beltex rams, and 500 Brecknock Welsh ewes, crossed with Texel and Welsh. The ewe lambs are wintered at home on grazed grass over winter and go onto good summer grass to be ready for autumn tupping, with no concentrate feed needed.

The two holdings also run a combined herd of 135 mainly Limousin x suckler cows, crossed with a Limousin bull. Some of the calves are sold as stores at 17-19months, some heifers are retained for breeding and those finished at 20 – 26 months go to Dovecot Park as organic beef for Waitrose.

All of the land, apart from the small woodlands, is down to permanent pasture, with some swards established for more than 50 years. Extensive reseeding has been carried out in the last 15 years and all grassland management concentrates on maximising the clover within the sward.

The emphasis is and has always been on maximising output from grass and clover plays a significant part of that strategy. A very low cost system is achieved by keeping inputs to an absolute minimum, as well as shared use of labour and machinery.

A forage wagon is used to harvest a hundred hectares of silage, mostly in the first cut in late June and early July, and there are two silage pits, one in each farm. The silage fields are reseeded in a rotation of 10 years, with a mix of red clover, white clover, hybrid and perennial rye grass, and in recent years chicory.

The landscape is a typically Mid Wales rolling hillside, with altitude ranges from 50 metres above sea level, to 300 metres. Welsh Sheep 2011 will be held on 18 May next year and is sponsored by Novartis Animal Health and HCC.

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