BUILD-UP TO SALE OF FORWARD STORE CATTLE REQUIRES ATTENTION TO DETAIL
THE 18 HEIFERS and 13 steers the partners will sell at two special store cattle sales at Dolgellau are in extremely good condition, and will look even better when John and Arwyn Breese prepare them for the sale ring.
Both get tremendous satisfaction from turning out forward stores that catch buyers” eyes, and their efforts are usually rewarded by above-average prices.
The sale cattle are being fed grass silage, whole-crop barley and chopped sugar beet. At first, the beet was fed whole, but large lumps were dropping though the slats and clogging up the pump on the slurry spreader.
“We do not have a lagoon and there is limited space for storing slurry under the slats in our new shed, so we have to spread regularly,” says Ron Breese. “Having to chop is a nuisance, but it is far better than having to dismantle a blocked pump.”
Storing manure produced by cattle kept on straw in older buildings is not a problem, but Mr Breese believes it might be necessary to erect some kind of slurry store to stay within cross-compliance regulations.
“In a wet winter like this one it would be very easy to make a terrible mess spreading slurry. I have read the Welsh Assembly”s booklet, but hope to learn a lot more at a meeting being organised by the Farmers Union of Wales.”
The last of the cows were housed the week after Christmas, and 500 ewes and ewe lambs have been moved to away-wintering land in Shropshire and Cardiganshire. The easing grazing pressure and good growing conditions have combined to produce abundant herbage.
“The sheep are grazing it off, but we don’t expect it to have much nutritional value. The main flock is also getting big bale silage, and the 98 ewes due to lamb at the end of February are receiving silage and whole sugar beet.
“They will be housed as soon as the first cattle are sold. Scanning showed that half of them are carrying twins. We also scanned some hill ewes when we were offered extra winter grazing on a farm that had already taken 100 of our ewes.”
The west Wales farmer involved wanted to use grass that had become available when ill health forced the sale of his dairy herd. Mr Breese believes that the 50p/head a week charge is good value for money.
Even before the extra sheep were sent away, the stocking rate had been reduced in line with the requirements of the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme. But the partners welcomed the opportunity to cut the number of sheep wintering on their hill land.
Three ewes that were not in lamb when scanned were sold on the same day as 28 store lambs. The culls only made 6 a head, the best five lambs realised 45 a head, and eight others were knocked down for 32 each. The smaller mountain lambs sold for an average of 25.
Once again, Gogarth lambs failed to win a prize at the primestock show staged by local abattoir operator and retail butcher Will Lloyd Williams.
“We did get a highly commended card, but the quality of some the 28 hill lambs on show was tremendous. The show was also a good opportunity to see the carcasses of cattle champions from the Welsh Winter Fair and Smithfield Show.”
Work to complete a new sheep shed prevented the partners from tackling 500m of hedge laying required by the farm”s Tir Gofal contract, so outside help had to be employed. The same will have to happen when 8000 seedling trees are planted to create 1000m of new hedges. These were bought from Snowdonia National Park Authority.
“I have not had the bill, but I understand they cost 14p each. The people who will do the job say they can plant 2000 seedlings a day.”
A rare week with no bookings allowed Mrs Breese to decorate some rooms in the five self-catering holiday units on the farm. Croeso Cader Idris, the 10-member group providing farmhouse accommodation of which she is a member, is about to launch a new website.
“We already had a site, but decided to invest in a professionally designed one. Fortunately, we were able to access some grant aid.”
The Christmas post brought news that she had been made an Associate of the Royal Agricultural Societies in recognition of her farm tourism work, and an invitation to get involved in a Prince of Wales Trust’s investigation into the provision of low-cost rural housing.
Sadly, she has not heard whether she will get a grant to convert another old stone barn. “This means that we have no chance of doing the work by next season, which is a great pity when demand is so good.”