The Farming Year in Painscastle and Rhosgoch
These personal accounts by different local farmers were first published in our local newsletter The Rhosgoch Gossip between 2014 and 2016. We think they provide an excellent introduction to the special nature of farming in an upland community and we hope you enjoy reading them too. Many thanks to the individuals concerned for their contributions.
September and October could in some ways be called the start of the farming year with sorting, selecting and selling of sheep. This is when farmers sort and cull ewes which may have missing or awkward teeth making it difficult to graze, or lost a quarter (ie. one side of their udder has had a problem) hence the term when buying or selling older ewes that they are "good underneath". This time of year there is a sale virtually every day of the working week for farmers to buy and sell their sheep. Some sales are for breeding ewes and ewe lambs, prime fat lambs and, in Builth Wells recently, one of the largest sales of rams in the country with over five thousand rams, including many different breeds.
Our flock is a closed flock, meaning we breed all our own replacement ewes and only purchase rams. Farmers who have hill rights to graze sheep on the hill will now be gathering their sheep from the hill in order to flush (putting them on to good grazing) the ewes ready for breeding. They will also have to be given drench for worms and liver fluke. Then the tups will be turned to the ewes about a fortnight after they have come off the hill.
We have recently had a FAWL (Farm Assured Welsh Livestock) inspection to check that our farm meets certain criteria, which includes checking livestock are in good condition, and that our buildings and the cattle and sheep handling facilities are up to scratch. The biggest amount of time is spent going through the paperwork, checking movements, medicine, waste disposal and on and on.
Many of the outlets for farm produce demand that farmers have this certificate. Hedge trimming is usually carried out in the autumn because the Welsh Assembly Government has forbidden any trimming to be carried out before the first of September, apart from at road junctions and on narrow roadsides.
On our farm we are nearly due for our next TB test, a very anxious time for all farmers. Last November on our annual test two of our cattle reacted to the test and subsequently had to be culled. This meant we could not buy or sell any cattle unless direct to slaughter until we had two clear tests approximately sixty days apart from the time of the last reading. The test involves putting all cattle through a handling system, in most cases a race (when cattle run down between barriers and then into the cattle crush). When the animal is held in the crush the ear tag number is read and recorded. The hair is clipped on the neck and the thickness of the skin is measured and this is also noted. The vet then injects two solutions into the skin and in three days the vet returns to put all the cattle through the race again and check for any lumps which may have occurred from the injected solutions, hopefully none!
Just going back to sheep for a moment, every farmer does their best not to have any lame sheep (almost impossible) but just a little thought, next time you are out and about just notice how many people are using walking sticks, mobility scooters or are just limping, and they have only got two feet to look after!
Phil & Chris Lewis
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat… and so are some of the lambs ready for marketing. The autumn regime has been helped by the good weather, but we still have our usual routines.
This time of year we think of supplementing the grass with hay and minerals and vitamins in the shape of feed blocks for the sheep. September was the month for preparing ewes for lambing (old ewes culled, plus ewes not suitable for breeding), by tailing (trimming the wool off the tail) and fluke / worm drench. As we have a flock of pedigree Texels the autumn is a busy time for us, preparing and selling yearling rams. Most are sold at home, so they have to look their best all the time. They are kept free from lameness by regularly running through a foot-bath, and kept clean, with the help of a power-washer, from time to time, just like taking the car to the car wash. Time is spent with customers when they select the ram that will suit their flock, as well as “putting the world to rights”.
Our ewes are sorted into three flocks. For the flock of crossbred ewes which start lambing on 1st March, the rams are put with the ewes on 1st October, 1 ram to 50 ewes. The pedigree flock start lambing on 1st April, so are mated from the 1st November and the third flock, of yearling ewes, start lambing on 1st May.
This year we had to purchase a new Hereford stock bull. Luckily Mac Evans, the Wern, had his for sale so we didn’t have to go far to look for one, Mac had him from Margaret James, Crossfoot, so he is staying in the valley.
The cows have been having hay since mid September but will now need housing due to field conditions being very wet. They will be fed silage till they calve again next May. This year’s calves will be weaned and housed separately from their mothers. Their backs and heads will be clipped to help stop them sweating in the sheds. They also receive a fluke and worm drench and are treated for lice. Up until the 1970s Hereford and Hereford cross cattle would have been the dominant beef breed in this valley, plus some Welsh Blacks, but these have been replaced by continental cattle e.g. Charolais and Limousins. We keep Hereford cattle because they suit the farm and are summered on the rushy land near Rhosgoch common. Many compliments are paid to the Hereford beef for its flavour and tenderness.
A new second-hand tractor has arrived, which had the honour of taking part in the Young Farmers (YFC) tractor run, expertly driven by the president Mr John Meredith assisted by Charlie East. Last week the YFC hedging match took place at the Bank Farm and local YFC members did very well, both male and female. This is also the time of the Christmas fatstock markets, which are still an important part of the pre- Christmas farming calendar, partly commercial and partly social. The two day winter fair at Llanelwedd is the premiere event of the season, but each livestock market prides itself on its contribution towards the local population’s Christmas lunch. With the short days the farm falls into the routine of feeding livestock, mending what’s broken, and seeing to that odd lame ewe!
Pendre is an organic beef and sheep farm in the centre of Painscastle. The feed that the stock has must be organic and we grow as much as we can on the farm, including the grass for silage, barley and turnips.
Our first job of the New Year, after all the turkey has been eaten and the mulled wine drunk, is to get the ewes in for scanning. This is an ultrasound scan that checks if the ewe is in lamb and, if so, how many lambs she is carrying. The person scanning calls out the result and the ewe is marked on her back accordingly to show if they are empty or carrying a single, twin, triplet etc. This year we have one ewe scanned with four lambs which is not what you want as the ewe will not be able to rear all four lambs. Carrying them will be a strain on her and the lambs will have be hand-reared or fostered onto another ewe. Twins are plenty for most mothers (and most farmers!).
The sheep are fed silage bales at the moment and will soon need feeding with sheep cake to help them grow the lambs and produce colostrum ready for when the lambs arrive. We house the ewes carrying twins and triplets in the shed about six weeks before they are due to lamb while the singles stay outside and lamb outdoors. Most of last year’s lambs have been sold by now, the remaining ones finishing up the turnips out in the field and which will be going to market in the next weeks.
The cattle have been in the shed since November and have been calving without too many problems, although you can usually rely on a calf turning up late on Christmas day.
We have been using Artificial Insemination (AI) on some of the cows for a couple of years now and so we can record when the cow is inseminated and on what date they should calf, which is quite helpful.The idea of using AI was to be able to use high quality bulls which have been performance recorded, which gives you an idea of the characteristics of the calves they will produce and how they will benefit the herd. We are hoping to get some heifer calves that we can keep on as cows using a Blonde d'Aquitaine bull.
The cows have to be given fresh bedding every day. We use straw which is bought in the Autumn and fern (bracken) which is cut and baled on the hill and is much cheaper as well as being very good litter. By Christmas the silage pit has been opened and the cows have two feeds of silage a day. They also have barley for breakfast and the younger cattle also get feed pellets, which help them to grow.
The cattle shed is cleaned out regularly, which means getting the cows out into the yard so the muck can be loaded in a trailer and taken to the muck heap ready for spreading. It is great fertiliser and is spread in the spring to help the grass in the mowing fields grow.
At this time of year most of the work revolves around getting ready for the spring and lambing and we keep our fingers crossed for some long, warm spring days to come.
James & Meg Lloyd
Yes, it’s that time of the year again and we can’t believe how quickly it came around. It’s very busy here and this is roughly what we are up to. Our cows are calving. Our herd is mainly Limousin & Belgian Blue cross. Usually we buy them as ‘bulling’ heifers ready to come into the herd after calving. We have a Limousin bull whose name is AKA Di Brutus (because we bought him off Mr Brute). John has two calves rearing on the bucket, he also looks after the tiddler lambs, which are put on a Volac machine. A few years ago he reared one hundred - he hopes not to have that number this year.
Our flock is divided into three, Charollais, Cheviots and Mules. The Charollais have finished lambing and are already out in the fields. We mostly keep the male lambs from these for breeding. Mules are crossed with a Charollais ram or a Texel ram, and this year for the first time we are trying a Berrichon Du Cher! These lambs are bred for meat or breeding. The Cheviots are crossed with a Blue-Faced Leicester and these are kept for breeding our Mule flock. At present all our Mule ewes are housed. When they have lambed and a bit more space is made, we will house the Cheviots. Our main flock of Mule ewes are all home bred out of a nucleus flock purchased from Llandovery or Sennybridge.
The day starts early at 5.30 am. After checking that everything is OK. each ewe that has lambed is penned individually with her lamb for 24 hours, making sure that every lamb has enough colostrum and is marked. They are then put into a larger catching pen for a further 24 hours before being taken out to the fields. Everyone is then ready for breakfast and a huge amount of food seems to get eaten. The only thing nobody wants is roast lamb, which is off the menu until after shearing (10th June).
Beau is also trying to catch moles (who seem to be very busy this year) and he has worked out a new theory. You need pepper and a big stone. Put plenty of pepper down the run and place the stone by the side of the pepper. The pepper makes the mole sneeze, the mole then bangs his head on the stone and - hey presto - the job is done—the mole is dead!
Our new single application rules booklet has arrived, all one hundred and seventy four pages of it. The form has to be filled in and returned by 15th May.
The weather today is dismal and drizzly; the weather man said it was going to be dry and warm. But do they get it right? I suppose they did say we would have some sunshine, odd showers and maybe frost at night - that seems to cover it all. Today started with me going to feed my two tiddlings. These are lambs that are fed on the bottle because either they haven’t got a mum or she doesn’t have enough milk - which it is in this case.
Al soon arrives with the quad bike and snacker with sheep cake in to feed the older ewes with their lambs. The grass is not growing much - at least not with us - as it is still too cold up in these hills, so they need a bit extra to keep them and their lambs growing.
This bunch of ewes is mostly Welsh Mules with their Charollais lambs. We have sold most of this group now in Hereford market as couples (one ewe and her lamb/s) and the only ones left are those who seemed to have one big lamb and one smaller. When we sell them we like the lambs to be similar in size, it’s just the way we like to do it. So we tip the bags of pellets into the creep for the lambs and then drop cake out of the snacker on the ground for the ewes. These lambs were born at the beginning of March, so will be weaned at the end of next week and the cull (mostly older) ewes will be taken to Talgarth market and the younger ewes shorn and put to the hill. The lambs will continue to have lamb pellets until they reach 34-40kg in weight and then will be taken to Talgarth market and sold as fat lambs.
The rest of our lambs (Suffolk/Welsh and Mules) that are on the younger ewes are sold later in the year from September onwards.
Then it’s on to give the cows some cake, as the grass is not growing fast enough on the other side of the electric fence, so they have a bit of spoiling, which they like. We strip graze one of our fields for the cattle, as we have now turned off the majority of the other fields and fertilized ready for harvesting in July.
Our cows are mostly Welsh Black or Hereford crosses with Charolais calves. We always calf at the same time as lambing, because we find it easier as we are already going out in the night to see the ewes, so we see the cows as well.
All our calving and lambing is now finished. The last ewe lambed a couple of days ago to what was supposed to be a barren ewe and all is well, so a bonus as we say.The lambing sheds have now been cleaned out ready for bringing the ewes in for shearing. We are hoping to shear the young ewes before the end of May and put them to the hill for the summer. These fields will be then fertilized ready to harvest in July.
It’s nearly the end of the month, so this afternoon I intend spending it on paperwork, preparing for my VAT return and, as Secretary for Painscastle Buyers Group, I will also be catching up with the paperwork, writing up minutes and booking speakers for the next few months. For those of you who do not know what the Painscastle Buyers Group is, we are a group of 45 farmers who farm from Llandeilo Graban to Gladestry and adjoining areas and who meet every two weeks to talk about and buy products for the farm.
The Group was set up in 1992 by three people and I have been Secretary from the beginning, with the idea to group up quantities to give us strength to demand better prices for us all. The small farms would be paying the same price as the larger farms for their goods. We have rules and guidelines to adhere to, the main one being that what goes on in the room, including prices, is kept within the group. On average we have at least 30 members attend each meeting, which speaks for itself. The idea is not to buy on price but to get quality products at low prices. We are a good social bunch and are always sharing ideas and problems - as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. We have lots of good speakers throughout the year. This year we intend to do our bit for the Breast Cancer Campaign awareness by each buying a pack of pink silage wrap.
If anyone out there is interested in joining the group please get in touch.
The late spring and summer weather has been a bit of a mixed bag this year and, whilst it may seem as though a lot of rain has fallen, the ground is generally fairly dry. Colder weather of late has seen a slowing of grass growth in places, so we were very pleased to have got all of our harvest (hay and silage) during the spell of good weather we had during early July. With shearing also having been completed, we were ready for the joys of summer in Mid Wales!
We have just spent four full days at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, the largest agricultural show in Europe, and what a wonderful spectacle it was. We are so fortunate to live so close to the show’s permanent site at Llanelwedd and I do think we sometimes take it for granted. This year we did not have any stock at the show, as the commercial fat lamb classes in which we used to exhibit have ceased and we sadly missed the entry dead-line for the carcass classes (being pre-occupied with lambing at the time of course).
We saw a wide representation of our rural way of life. Huw had a chance to speak with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Rebecca Evans AM, at a reception, and Clare was at an event with Andrew Slade, Director of Agriculture at the Welsh Assembly, but it would seem that the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) system for farmers in Wales remains uncertain. Coupled with very low lamb prices, a strengthening pound and the continuing crisis in Southern Europe, the road ahead for farming looks challenging for a good while to come. It’s a good job that we love what we do!
For those who don’t know, Glanyrafon, meaning ‘Riverside’ in Wales, is located just outside of Painscastle, not far from the Bachowey brook, hence the derivation of its name. The land we farm ranges from around 800ft above sea level at the farmstead rising to around 1200ft on our hill ground.
The next few weeks will see us re-seeding land where we’ve harvested with a new herbal mix based ley. This has involved burning off the grass and then leaving it for a week or so before slot-seeding in the herbal mix. Hopefully this slot-seeding will save us some time over ploughing and cultivating. Watch this space.
Our workforce has increased since last year with two new pups starting to learn the ropes. The most promising is Duke, a New Zealand Huntaway, who is growing like a mushroom. At eight months he is just about standing at Huw’s waist. He has shredded three collars already and consequently is now sporting a rather urban-style, heavy Goldie Lookin’ Chain necklace, I mean collar. Our other pup is a blue merle collie bitch, who is slightly smaller and slower than the Huntaway. She is called ‘Roy’ after her breeder, the legend that is Mr Roy Price.
Having sold our cattle last year due to concerns regarding tuberculosis and the continual labour and forage demands of our bovine friends, we now concentrate on producing prime finished lambs for the fatstock market and on producing tups (rams) for onward sale at the Autumn breeding sales. Our home bred Texel cross and Beltex cross tups are growing well and we are currently sorting them out for the forthcoming National Sheep Association Ram Sale on 21st September at the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells. So remember, if any of you want a good tup, you know where to come … the HRJ Flock at Glanyrafon!
Huw & Clare Jones
Hello all from Llanbachowey Farm.
Kay and I are now living in the house on the farm along with our black Labrador Dougal. Mum and dad (Vince and Carol) have completed the building of their bungalow (Pasture View) and moved in finally last summer.
Being situated just 2km out of Painscastle going towards Erwood the farm produces beef cattle, which are sold as stores (for fattening) and finished fat lambs ready for table. Store Cattle are marketed through Talgarth and Brecon markets. Lambs are marketed locally or sold straight to slaughter depending on the size or type of lambs ready for sale.
Having completed all of the summer jobs of harvesting and shearing, moving into the autumn new jobs are looming. Housing of the cattle is just around the corner and we are currently readying the ewes for tupping in mid October. This involves giving the ewes their annual, MOT, trimming feet, trimming their tails and treating any fluke/worm ailments. All this work will hopefully result in a good crop of healthy lambs being born in the spring. While doing all the work with sheep I’m always accompanied by my canine helpers Benny, Pete and Snoopy. While not always quite on the same wavelength as the shepherd, their commitment to the job is never in doubt.
Over the past three years my partner Kay has been building a livery business on the farm. Kay likes horses! Being a freelance horse-riding instructor, competing in British dressage events with her own and customers’ horses keeps her quite busy. It has been a very successful summer winning many affiliated classes on a coloured cob (Lady Jane) and taking part in a young horse class on her own mare (Amber). With elite riders participating from across the country, including Charlotte Dujardin (Double gold Olympic medallist), this was a special experience, hopefully leading to exciting times ahead…
Having been involved in local football for a long time it was a terrible shame to see the conclusion of Rhosgoch FC earlier in the year. As a new footie season begins many former Rhos men have now signed for Builth FC and, never wanting to be left out, I have taken up the challenge with them in Builth. With the winter around the corner playing footie is a hobby in which you can meet different people and always look forward to a big game at the weekend.
The future seems uncertain for a farm business such as ours with lamb and cattle prices being affected by fluctuations in currency and issues with markets abroad. With subsidies due to decrease further over the coming years a positive outlook is essential and it is a good job that farmers have always been ready for the next challenge.
Having just returned from Berlin and Dresden on a Wye Valley Grassland study tour, we realized that we could not put off the writing of this farming column for the gossip any longer.
We unfortunately missed the YFC (Young Farmers Club) Field Day, which was held on the farm on the 10th and 11th of October. Luckily the weather was fine, if a little on the cold side. Many thanks to everyone who supported the two-day event and helped Steve before and on the two days. Sounds like Rhosgoch YFC members had a good time as well as a successful weekend. Luckily Grace, our local photographer, was on hand to record all the various activities, so we will be able to watch the DVD to see what went on in our absence.
There were many competitions: cookery, floral, cake decorating, a mock auction and others. One of the main competitions on the Sunday was fencing, where teams of 3 YFC members had to erect 12 metres of fence. Unfortunately for them the digging was quite hard and they did find a few stones! All 17 teams made an excellent effort putting up the fence, but as soon as it was judged they had to take it down.
We keep a flock of pedigree Clun Forest sheep which are put to the rams early in October. Our flock of mule ewes are put to the rams later in October and this gives us more room in the sheep shed during lambing, which starts in the middle of March. Many farms in the area would have had a Clun flock 50-60 years ago, but as with fashion farmers started keeping the mule ewe, which is a cross between a Blue-faced Leicester ram and either a Beulah or Welsh ewe.
Now we are one of the few pure Clun flocks in the area, but the breed is growing in numbers with flocks all over the UK and in other countries. Two years ago we exported 2 Clun ram lambs to France. This was an experience in just how many forms have to be filled in, by us and the vet. We said never again, but after being contacted by a lady living near the Alps we went through the whole process again and 2 ram lambs and 4 ewe lambs are now on a skiing holiday in the Alps.
We have help in looking after the sheep; Ce is in training in the management of the ewes but fails to answer to the whistle, so we have Evan, a blue merle sheep dog, who is well known around the village and surrounding area as a keen and energetic worker. Jimmy our other dog, while keen to help, is still on probation and under tuition.
With the weather turning wet in the last couple of weeks we have housed the cattle, so the winter routine of feeding has begun. With our first grandson Samuel born in July we can spend more time visiting and playing with him and forget the problems that farming is facing at the moment.
Richard Price, Trewyrlod
For those of you who don’t know me, I live with my wife Jo, and two children Hannah and Frances, at Lower Hengoed. I am a fourth-generation farmer on this farm, which lies on the English Welsh border along the banks of the River Arrow.
Historically we have kept suckler cows and breeding ewes with all their offspring sold through Kington Market. We have grown sufficient corn to feed the livestock in the winter and allow us to improve the grassland through reseeding after the corn.
In the past there appeared to be a political will to provide targeted support for the upland farmers. Schemes such as the HLCA (Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance) recognised the importance of these farms to the rural economy in these areas. The gradual erosion of the support for this type of farm and the reliance of livestock farms on payments received from the RPA (Rural Payments Agency) lead me to explore if we could reduce our reliance on these payments. We decided to see if we could put the resources on the farm to additional uses.
One of the rooms in the farmhouse has been converted into a beauty salon and Jo has been developing her beauty business offering a wide range of treatments from manicures and pedicures to state of the art anti-aging facials. I also work part-time for Farmplan developing agricultural computer software. We looked into cider fruit, mushrooms and chickens, but we decided to try cherries when the opportunity arose to grow the trees with the expertise of a company that was already growing cherries in the area.
The soil and location are very important when selecting a site for cherries. Cherries need plenty of light and do not like their roots wet, they also need the soil to have a neutral pH. One of the most critical times in the year is when the blossom is out; therefore, you have to avoid locations that are susceptible to frost.
After putting temperature monitors around the farm in 2011 we arrived at 4 fields that were suitable for growing cherries. These were also fairly flat and not too exposed so that the tunnels that cover the trees won’t get blown away.
We planted the first two fields in 2012 and the second two fields in 2013. Along with planting the trees, the trickle irrigation system was installed and the tunnels constructed. This was only the start however.
The varieties of cherry that we have planted here are standard trees but they are grafted onto dwarf rootstocks, which is what keeps them smaller. Because the farm is at 650ft the fruit are naturally ripe two weeks later than the same varieties grown at sea level. In addition we are growing late ripening varieties in order to target the late season market.
In order to produce large, quality cherries, the pruning and maintenance of the trees is very important. In order to get maximum light to all parts of the tree you want a tree to be shaped like a Christmas tree, which you achieve by pruning. Vigorous vertical stems do not produce much fruit, so these are all tied down so that they grow horizontally.
We cover the trees just before the blossom comes out as it helps to protect the blossom from frost and give the bees a better environment; however, it’s always a worry when we get a windy night!
We use both honey and bumble bees to pollinate the cherries. Honey bees tend to fly to a flower and then back to the hive whereas bumble bees move between the flowers so pollinating more. The bumble bees also fly at lower temperatures than the honey bees, which is very important if we have a cold spring, as no pollination means no fruit.
After the flowers have been pollinated and the soil has dried out we use a trickle irrigation system to irrigate the trees. The cherry trees do not like rain or being too hot so we also lift the side of the tunnels that are over the roadways so that the air stays cooler and rain will fall on the tracks rather than the trees.
From mid-July we start picking the fruit. It is all picked by hand and cooled as quickly as possible to improve its shelf life. We aim to have 95-97% class 1 fruit, which is supplied to the major supermarkets. The trees take 5 years to reach full maturity and we expect them to last another 15 years after that, so ask me in a couple more years whether we made the right decision to diversify into cherries. It is said you only regret what you haven’t tried rather than what you have!
Mo has asked us to write about the goings on at Blaenhow for this month’s focus. I suppose we should be flattered that she thinks you would like to hear about what our deer do in early spring.
The short answer to this is: nothing! We house all our breeding hinds, calves and any stock left for venison in early December, so the regular, morning routine consists of spreading ewe nuts round, checking water and refilling any empty bale feeders, then we are free to get on with other jobs such as replacing rotting fence posts. Errol and Charlie Chuckles, our breeding stags, stay outside throughout the winter as they are too big to fit in the shed and tend to bully the hinds, pushing them away from the food. Charlie is fully recovered from his stay with Mo and Ken a few years ago.
Deer go into a period of inappetence (loss of appetite) through the winter, where they only eat for maintenance as the days get shorter and this corresponds to the availability and poor quality of the food available in the wild. In theory this should make our lives easier, with them needing less feed. Ours seem to be just as greedy, whatever the time of year! The hinds live in the same groups all year round, as they have a rigid hierarchy and can bully the lower ranking hinds severely.
Our last trailer load of venison animals went last week. All our stock is sold to the Welsh Venison Centre and collected from the farm to be taken to George’s in Talgarth for slaughter. The venison price has been stable for the last few years as we have tapped into a niche market and are not subject to the whims of the supermarkets.
The Welsh Venison Centre also take our cull animals. I like to select two or three of the smaller mature hinds every year to keep our herd profile young and fresh. Our replacement hinds are all home-bred and are selected for size and temperament.
Weather permitting, the hinds will re-join Errol and Charlie outside sometime in the middle of April, as the grass starts to grow, ready for calving from mid-May onwards. Calving generally occurs with no intervention from us at all, in fact the arrival of the first calf is usually a pleasant surprise! Our main duties during this period are finding and tagging the new-born calves within the first 24 hours and worrying. If we don’t find them within 24 hours they can outrun us! We tag all our calves with a plastic tag and a metal Ketchum tag. The plastic tags are to help us with our herd management and change colour every year, with a different letter in front of the number so we can tell at a glance how old a deer is. The metal tag contains our herd number and a consecutive number for every deer on the farm, I think we are somewhere about 350 now. The hinds and stags have the tags in different ears to further aid identification at a glance.
There is quite a bit more I could write about the deer and what they get up to. Whatever happens, the next few months promise to be busy ones, with plenty to look forward to.
Hello from everyone at Blaenhenllan, Llandeilo Graban. We run a cattle and sheep hill farm with most of our land adjoining the Llandeilo Graban and Painscastle Hill. It’s a beautiful part of the country at this time of year, as everything has eventually started to grow and green up. After a couple of busy months, May is the time of year to try and tidy up, especially with the Farm Assurance Inspection in mid-May. The inspection involves checking that all the paperwork is in order, such as the animal movement licences and medicine records. Then we have a look around the livestock and buildings. Farm Assurance is something that most major supermarkets require when sourcing livestock and hopefully pay a little more for our efforts.
On the sheep front, with the weather starting to warm up, our attention turns to shearing. We have shorn the hogs earlier this year before turning them onto the hill. It'll be a few less to do later on in the season when the hay harvesting begins. We shear the sheep ourselves but by the last one the old football injuries start to reappear!
We give the lambs a worm drench at the end of May to keep them healthy and growing and hopefully get some sold in June. The Welsh Mountain ewes with single lambs are turned onto the hill in mid-May, making more room to shut out of some fields to grow the hay and silage. Any spare time is taken up spraying the nettles and thistles as they pop up everywhere.
We have turned most of the cattle out with a bunch of young bulls left in which will be sold over the next few months. It does make life easier as the winter feeding comes to an end and the cattle go out to graze. We calf some cows outside in May so as not to clash with lambing and the calves seem to be healthier born outside.
To try and improve grass growth we have re-seeded a field after growing turnips last year. With Father warning me "ploughing that field will pull up a week’s worth of stone picking" we have got a contractor to direct-drill the seed. Hopefully, the seeds will germinate with a bit of warm rain, especially as the field is by the road.
With the EU referendum getting closer we have been trying to understand how Brexit would affect our business. With our hill farm heavily reliant on European subsidies it is important to know what the alternatives will be if the country votes Out. Also, how will it affect the lamb export trade to Europe with 40% of UK sheep meat exported there?
On a lighter note, the excitement is building with the imminent arrival of baby Lloyd due mid-June, a few more sleepless nights after lambing.
Tim and Ruth
Hello from everyone at Llewetrog Farm, Llandeilo Graban.
At Llewetrog we run a cattle, sheep and free-range chicken egg unit farm. July is a busy time for us on the farm, as we like to finish shearing and do all our harvesting, especially this year, as our new flock of chickens is just starting to lay. This requires training the chickens to lay in the nest boxes to reduce floor eggs. The first 6 – 8 weeks after arrival, training the chickens is vitally important to ensure they settle in well in their new home.
We are now on our fourth flock of chickens since October 2012. We purchase the pullets at 16 weeks of age; they then start to lay from approximately 20 weeks. Within that 4-week period we are constantly weighing the chickens to ensure they are gaining weight, monitoring bone structure and monitoring water intake to ensure that the chickens are at the developed stage to effectively lay eggs. We also regularly walk the chickens, ensure they go up to roost in the evenings by physically putting them up onto the system in the first few weeks of arrival. This is also encouraged by controlled lighting.
We keep the chickens up to the age of between 72 – 76 weeks. Our last flock laid around 4.26 million eggs. Our current flock is laying around 11,000 eggs per day, which is 91% efficient and we hope this will increase in the next 4 – 5 weeks to 95%.
On the silaging front, thankfully we have a very helpful silaging contractor………………… Micky Farmer. This year I (John) managed to snap the mower in half. Not to worry though, Micky was on hand to help out with the loan of his mower. Micky and the crew made light work of our 50 acres of silage, filling the clamp in 7 hours without even breaking into a sweat.
On the sheep front we are currently gathering the hill to shear and wean our hill sheep. The next job then will be to select the best lambs to give extra feed to and to enter them at Painscastle Fete. Look out Herdmans!
We hope you enjoyed reading our farming section.
From all in the Fast lane at Llewetrog.