2017-04-19  facebooktwitterrss

NSA Welsh Sheep 2017 Not to be Missed

The challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring means it is more important than ever for flockmasters to update and keep ahead in rapidly changing times. It means that, this year especially, NSA Welsh Sheep 2017 is a not to be missed opportunity.

The NSA Welsh Sheep Event will showcase a traditional, tenanted, farm in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, with spectacular views and grazing stretching towards Pen y Fan. It is the home of Stephen and Lisa Williams and their son, Luke, who at 21 is the fifth generation of the family to farm at Llwyn Bedw, Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, now rented from Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water).

Hosts Stephen and Lisa Williams, with their son Luke left, and Stephen’s father, Godfrey,  far left, are keen to welcome visitors to Welsh Sheep 2017.

Hosts Stephen and Lisa Williams, with their son Luke left, and Stephen’s father, Godfrey, far left, are keen to welcome visitors to Welsh Sheep 2017.

Stephen’s father, Godfrey, is also heavily involved with the running of the closed flock of 3,500 sheep, 3,000 hefted Talybont type breeding ewes (Welsh x Cheviot) and a downland flock of Charollais x Talybont type ewes, as well as a herd of 70 suckler cows. Godfrey, who established a successful contracting business before returning home to farm in 1981, was born the year that Talybont-on-Usk was flooded to supply Newport with water.

His grandfather, John Williams, was allocated what remained of the farms in the valley after losing his own to the reservoir, one of the largest in South Wales. The farm comprises 1000 acres under fence, and the family enjoy hill rights on 900 hectares (3000 acres) of Buckland Common, stretching from Aber village to Torpantau.

Stephen says:
“We introduced the Charollais to have an earlier selling lamb – we start lambing in the first week of February and finish on 1 May. We lamb them in different batches, beginning with the Charollais lambing indoors. They will have been put to a Texel ram.

“Then we lamb the broken mouth ewes, in lamb to a Charollais. We lamb those with twins indoors and the singles out. The 2,000 hill ewes begin on 1 March and all lamb out, but off the hill.”

The family are passionate supporters of the livestock trade, with the Charollais x lambs selling at Talyont–on-Usk or Brecon Market from the end of July at 30/32 kilos liveweight and the hill lambs following from the end of August until late November. Any slower finishing lambs are sold at Christmas in Penderyn.

The closed flock system involves the family breeding all their own rams, keeping sixty or so each year. The Talybonts are a hefted flock, kept separate and put to a Charollais ram. Their ewe lambs are kept as replacement Charollais x ewes, which then go to a Texel to produce for the early market.

They take pride in keeping the farm tidy and enjoy sharing their experiences with visitors. Stephen is keen to demonstrate to the general public the part that farmers play in creating and conserving the National Park, saying there are too many misconceptions.

He says:
“The perception people tend to have of this area in the Brecon Beacons National Park is that the National Park does a lot environmentally, but it’s we who are the custodians of this valley. We look after the rights of way, the gates and a great deal more.

“We deal with people on daily basis. The countryside looks the way it does because of farmers. The sheep are the best conservation tool you can have and we really want the public to see how we operate”.

Godfrey remains confident. He says Brexit will bring changes, but feels UK lambs are the best in the world and he hopes that the Government will recognise and value the work farmers do for the countryside and for the balance of payments.

His grandson, Luke, is settled back at the farm, after spending a year on a sheep station near Melbourne. He enjoys working as part of the team with his father, grandfather and mother Lisa, who Godfrey says is ‘the best shepherdess in the area’.

The challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring means it is more important than ever for flockmasters to update and keep ahead in rapidly changing times. It means that, this year especially, NSA Welsh Sheep 2017 is a not to be missed opportunity.

There is free admission for members of the National Sheep Association and the £12 admission cost to non members will soon be recouped in terms of better understanding of the sheep industry and business development. The events and seminars offer an insight into the politics that shape the sheep industry, as well as into industry developments, technology and veterinary advances and the day also provides welcome post lambing relaxation and enjoyment.

The event will be opened by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority Chair, Melanie Doel. She is also a former BBC Wales journalist, all of which gives her a unique insight into the demands upon those farmers living and working in some of the UK’s most precious landscapes.

It’s also fitting that one of the three seminars will concentrate on Future Models for Public Money towards Farming. Speakers will include NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker and Chris Short of the Foundation for Common Land, who will discuss Options for Payment for Public Goods.

Brexit will be the focus of one of the other seminars. Speakers will include NSA Chairman Sam Wharry, Hybu Cig Cymru - Head of Operations, Prys Morgan, and Andrew Slade from the Welsh Government.

Looking for answers to the problem of antibiotic resistance will be the topic of the third seminar. Speaking to the theme, Antibiotic Resistance, Rising to the Challenge will be independent sheep specialist Kate Hovers, Farming Connect’s Gethin Davies and the subject of a farmer case study, Anglesey’s Arwyn Jones.

Llwynbedw Farm and reservoir

Llwynbedw Farm and reservoir

Workshop topics include Planning for a Healthy Flock, with tips on how to prevent problems as well as focusing on proactive healthcare planning. Another concentrates on information from the Woodland Trust on how woodland and trees can provide real benefits, and a particular insight into ancient woodlands.

Flockmasters will also have the opportunity to test their wits and skills in the various competitions and to see the industry’s best in action. Included are the Next Generation Shepherd Competition, British Wool’s Guess the Breed of Sheep from its Wool and Hybu Cig Cymru’s red meat themed challenges.

The sheepdog trials will comprise three sessions with 80 dogs and has been organised by internationally renowned Kevin Evans. The huge variety of trade stands, demonstrations and entertainment mean it will be a day to remember.

And of course, the backdrop to the event is the host farm. The opportunity to take a tour of Llwyn Bedw is not to be missed, affording an insight into a traditional tenanted farm and taking in views of one of South Wales’s largest reservoirs.

NSA

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