Four former Farmer Focus writers have returned for a one-off appearance to give us an update about how things are going on farm. Here Neville and Margaret Stacey fill us in on what has been happening on their farm since 2008.

The morning routine of checking the rainfall gauge has been suspended till further notice, as this normally happy farmer was in danger of turning into a miserable old git.

We are still farming. Just not as fast and furious as in days gone by. My arthritic ankle was fused three years ago, grand job, and our friend the poor cobbler keeps me shod with strong walking boots. That, combined with constantly seeking out ways of making the job easier, is working. The best piece of machinery to come on farm recently has been the Tanco Grab. It cuts bales in two and holds on to the net and wrap for disposal.

With the present SFP regime not dependent on keeping vast numbers of livestock, we reduced numbers and only keep what the farm can support and use as few inputs as possible.

We’ve kept our Aberdeen Angus cow numbers up, but no longer finish cattle. Steers are sold as stores with surplus heifers sold mainly for breeding. However, our local butcher has the occasional animal as does Dovecote Park.

We still run a flock of Beulah Speckleface ewes and a few Welsh – all bred pure to provide replacements. Either the ewes are getting stronger and bigger or I am getting weaker as handling them is getting tougher. Lambing is synchronised to coincide with school holidays so our granddaughters Elizabeth and Cecelia can earn some money.

Daughter Joanna is a huge help at lambing and she’s here most weekends helping her old father. Margaret sneaked two Dorset Horn cross ewe lambs into the flock. The lambs, Ennis and Emily Brown, belong to Freddie and Isabelle, our youngest grandchildren.

Our Tir Gofal agreement ends in March. It’s been a good scheme and has enabled us to tidy up the farm fences and hedges. We have completed six years of farming organically and that combined with Tir Gofal restrictions has not been particularly easy. We are left with a serious dock and rush problem on some fields. Time to buy a sprayer or do we put up with them and continue to take organic payments and the good premium paid for the cattle? Decisions, decisions.

An invitation came through the post recently – “Family Planning for Farmers”. With the big 70 coming up next year I did wonder why we were being sent this bumph. As eye-catching titles go it was brilliant and the evening sent out an important message regarding the importance of written partnership agreements, enduring power of attorney and wills.

We wish everyone well for 2013 and may the weather go with you.

Neville and Margaret Stacey farm beef and sheep organically on 135ha in Mid-Wales. The land is in five blocks, up to two miles apart, and is all above 1,000f in LFA/SDA.

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