19 July 2002

PLEASED TO SEE THE SHOW RETURN

Breeders like Steve Smith

welcome the return of the

show as an important place

to buy and sell stock

STEVE Smith, a Texel breeder who lost most of his flock during the foot-and-mouth crisis, welcomes the return of a near-normal Royal Welsh Show.

"We are rebuilding and are on the look out for breeding stock," says Mr Smith, Penbryn, Castle Caereinion, Powys. "The show is also a very important shop window for the type of Texels we have to sell."

His Penparc flock was founded in 1981 and numbered 280 purebreds before all but 80 ewe lambs and 100 Mule ewe lambs, which were grazing away on rented land, were slaughtered. Around 750 commercial Mules and 400 Beulah ewes were also killed.

The cull forced him to look carefully at his system. There was never any question over rebuilding the Texel flock and this is well underway. Ewes and a ram have been imported from Holland and he has travelled widely to buy stock from some of the UKs top flocks.

Delayed tupping means that the four sheep he has entered for the Royal Welsh will be younger than most of the sheep put forward, but he believes it is very important to support the breed and the show.

Mr Smith has decided it was time to go for premium finished lamb markets by gradually switching the commercial flock to Texel x Mule ewes.

"Carcass quality is what the Texel breed is all about. We want the people who buy our rams to use on commercial ewes to come back for more, so it is important to show that we have bloodlines that do the job on our crossbred ewes."

Like many other Welsh farmers Mr Smith and his wife Helen have diversified their business. This was done using grants obtained by Montgomeryshire Rural Enterprise, which is a self-help group of family farmers. They believe that other farmers should co-operate to obtain similar financial help.

On their farm a dilapidated barn has been converted into two high-class self-catering cottages, and they have established a falconry school.

Customers can opt for packages ranging from a half-day hawking experience up to four days of serious training. Already the combination of good accommodation and the chance to fly birds of prey is attracting corporate clients, including directors of the Japanese knitting machine manufacturing company Fukuhara.

Steve Smiths birds of prey venture is attracting corporate clients.

Steve Smith lost most of his sheep during the foot-and-mouth crisis and is currently in the process of re-building his flock.