A chance to update Knowledge

FOR PRIME lamb and cattle producers like Haydn Jones and his son Brian, a day at the Winter Fair is a chance to update their technical knowledge.

CAP reform has made it more important than ever to ensure they are turning out products the market wants as cost effectively as possible.

 “We hope we are already doing things well, but the industry does not stand still and we must be receptive to new ideas,” says Hadyn Jones. “We believe that the best way of staying in business is to go for quality.”

At Rhiw Lal, a few miles from Mold in Denbighshire, they already chase premium markets. Over the past decade they have improved the conformation of the beef cattle they sell by gradually moving towards the use of pure Limousins in their 45-cow suckler herd.

The 600kg bulls they sell on the hoof realise about 100 a head more than the few Limousin x Hereford x Friesian bulls of the same weight that they still have to sell.

The type of sheep run on the 158ha (390-acre) less favoured area farm has also changed. There is still a flock of 130 Hardy Speckled Face ewes, but these are crossed with Bluefaced Leicester tups to produce the 500 Mules that make up most of the flock.

“We use good-quality Charollais terminal sires on these to get prime lambs that combine good growth rate with the sort of conformation the market wants. Lambs are sold on the live trade weighing around 40kg at prices that are usually at the top end of the market.”

Despite having land running up to the 360m (1200ft) contour, the claimed lack of hardiness of Charollais-sired lambs has not been seen at Rhiw Lal, perhaps because lambing does not start until well into April.

So do the partners anticipate changing much after the decoupling of support payments? Having already tried to produce what buyers require, they will wait to see if market-place returns make their enterprises profitable without using their single farm payment.

“Most of the farmers I speak to intend to bide their time and see how the reforms work out in practice,” says Hadyn Jones, who chairs NFU Cymru’s Clwyd county branch. Should change be necessary, he believes the Winter Fair is a good place to find the latest management ideas and technological developments.