2015-01-07   facebooktwitterrss

NSA Welsh Sheep Offers Insight into Different Systems

Two very different farming systems run by two brothers rising from 600 feet above sea level to 1400 feet will be open to visitors to NSA Welsh Sheep in May 2015.

The 2015 NSA Welsh Sheep event will showcase some of the best that the lovely old county of Montgomeryshire has to offer, with views from the top extending almost from Shrewsbury to Snowdon. The brothers farm adjoining but very different holdings, with the two families are facing the same difficult question: how much longer will they be able to afford to produce top quality livestock?

Glanmiheli Hill will afford glorious views at NSA Welsh Sheep 2015

Glanmiheli Hill will afford glorious views at NSA Welsh Sheep 2015

The change in the system of subsidy payment is clearly an issue that they are having to consider and to question its impact on their farming systems. They each have three teenage children and in both cases have a son eager to farm.

NSA Welsh Sheep will be based at Glanmiheli Farm, Kerry, bought by the brothers’ parents, David and Ann Powell, in 1974. The family moved from Llwngwyllim Farm, Rhayader, where the oldest brother Howell still farms.

Glanmiheli is farmed by the youngest brother, Geraint, with his wife Anabel, 19 year old son Lloyd and daughters, Rosie 21 and 16 year old Billie-Jo.

They added a free range egg production unit to the traditional beef and sheep unit in 2009, four years after switching to organic farming. They are currently working on the installation of an anaerobic digester to produce electricity from their own and introduced muck, as well as purpose grown crops.

They run a Welsh flock, producing White Mules for replacements, and a pedigree Beulah flock for producing Bown Mule replacements and Beulah replacements, as well as a few Beulah tups. The Brown Mules go to Suffolks, and the white mules go to Charolais and Texel tups, to produce finished lambs which are sold to Waitrose and at Welshpool Livestock Market.

They have recently made a change from Limousin X suckler cows, and started purchasing and breeding Salers cows, due to their outstanding maternal abilities, ease of calving and large natural frame for high growth rates. The cattle are finished mainly on home-grown cereals.

The Powell family have all been keen showmen and are enthusiastic livestock farmers. But Geraint is concerned about future stability.

He says: “I was brought up with sheep and enjoyed them, but I want to build some security into the business with Lloyd coming in. He’s keen and has new ideas so we’re changing direction.

“We went organic in 2005 and that has taught us a lot. We have learned how to grow grass with clover and keeping leys fresh and young, under five years old, without fertilisers.

“We’ll be using the digestate from the anaerobic digestor in the future and so we hope to carry on not buying in any fertiliser.”

Geraint is a sheep man at heart and is full of praise for the role of the Welsh Mule in modern Welsh sheep production. He puts his Welsh Mules to Suffolk, Texel and some Charollais rams and says the mules produce everything the market wants and are good mothers, producing lots of lambs, with easy lambing and very good milk.

The event also takes in Drefor, farmed by Morton and his wife, Mandy, with teenage daughters Megan and Mary and son, David. The farm was purchased in 1996 and extends to 900 acres, 700 owned and with some rented ground just over the border in England.

The experience of farming in England as well as Wales makes the family appreciative of the Welsh Government’s approach, but fear that the crunch is coming. Morton is hesitant about the prospects for the future.

He says:
“Will we be able to afford to produce sheep and lamb in the countryside?
Can we afford to breed them?
That’s the big question facing us now.”

And producing fine quality livestock is what the family does well, running 800 Welsh Mules, 400 Beulas and 400 Welsh Mountain ewes. There are also 200 hoggs to lamb each year, with the lambing season beginning on March 1, with the Welsh Mules, followed by the Beulah and Welsh Mountain two weeks later, then the hoggs in early April.

The 2,200 finished lambs are sold live and deadweight, in Welshpool and to Waitrose, at 42kg live, 19 deadweight from early June. They also sell 350 Welsh Mule ewe lambs in Welshpool each year and keep another 200 as replacements.

The lambing is all indoors, with the new lambs fed a little creep, before turning out onto grass and later turnips grown for Glastir. The farm also carries 120 Limousins x British Blue Suckler cows with the stores sold in Bishops Castle at 8 – 12 months.


Related Links
link Plan to Loose Less Lambs
link New Sheep Tagging Rules Mean Care Must be Taken
link NSA Welcomes Welsh Government’s Decision on Land Classification
link Red Tractor Assurance Must Remain Practical, Logical and Justifiable

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