Farmers Weekly Awards 2018: Young Farmer of the Year

Fifth-generation farmer Jacob Anthony is the 2018 Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the year.

Jacob has successfully navigated the tricky path of working on the family farm by being brave enough to make changes while employing a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

After completing a three-year agriculture diploma at Hartpury College, he decided to return to Cwm Risca, foregoing the almost inevitable Antipodean venture, and was given sole responsibility for the sheep enterprise.

Passionate about progress and leaving the farm better than when he found it, Jacob has taken every opportunity to improve his knowledge, update his management systems and stabilise his cashflow.

See also: Meet the 2018 Young Farmer of the Year finalists

Jacob Anthony

Cwm Risca Farm, Tondu, Bridgend

Jacob Anthony sits on an ATV alongside a sheepdog

Jacob Anthony © Richard Stanton

Farm facts

  • 283ha of grazing land and woodland
  • Three-week lambing period from March-April
  • Mixed outdoor-indoor lambing system
  • Cropping includes spring barley, Italian ryegrass leys, red clover, turnips
  • Glastir Advanced environment scheme
  • 11kW farm turbine
  • 60kW biomass boiler
  • Two staff members

Jacob runs 1,000 Lleyn cross Texel breeding ewes and 300 head of cattle, including 110 Welsh Black cross Limousin/Charolais suckler cows, and 10 pedigree Welsh Blacks, in southern Wales.

Since returning to the farm, he has made a number of changes to improve efficiency and cut input costs, including moving lambing from February to March/April, removing concentrates from the flock’s diet and decreasing the weaning age to 12 weeks.

He also used a Welsh government grant to buy a sheep-handling system, which has helped make flock management easier.

By regularly testing blood and manure samples, keeping track of daily liveweight gains and regularly consulting professionals, Jacob is able to treat his sheep for specific complaints, avoid a resistance build-up to drugs and improve his flock’s health.

Financial focus 

The majority of finished lamb is sold to Dunbia and Sainsbury’s through the Wales YFC scheme, which rewards the correct specification stock with a bonus. More than 80% of Jacob’s stock hits this target, a significantly higher success rate than the national average.

As well as securing this new outlet, he was instrumental in the decision to invest in a biomass boiler and wind turbine, which harness natural energy sources and help with year-round cashflow.

Jacob also takes on off-farm work, such as an equine forage business, contracting and shearing, to add another layer of income and security, understanding the need to bolster his farm.

His business decisions show maturity, an excellent command of farming economics and a great ability to work towards a clear objective.

Looking forward

Though frustrated that details around Brexit remain unclear, Jacob remains positive for the future and believes leaving the EU could present many opportunities.

With premium brands like Welsh lamb and unique selling points around animal welfare and food quality, British food will still be highly sought-after, he says.

Continuing his own personal development is important to him. Jacob hopes to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship soon, and looks forward to travelling abroad and studying other agricultural systems and practices.

Taking up roles with NFU Cymru, the National Sheep Association and the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, such as becoming an ambassador and sitting on committees, has increased his confidence and he plans to continue to speak up for farming.

“You can’t just sit and complain about farming, you have to put yourself and your thoughts forward to try to make a difference,” Jacob says.

“It’s important that agricultural boards have younger members involved, because it’s all about our future.”

Winning ways

  • Varied income through diversification projects
  • Focused on quality over quantity
  • Taken on significant responsibility from a young age
  • Keen to develop own learning and training
  • Comfortable in farming-advocate role
  • Secured new outlet for lamb (Dunbia)
  • Consistently hitting YFC scheme’s stock specification target
  • Invested in renewable energy sources

A word from our independent judge

“Jacob has initiated and sought out opportunities for training and development in both technical and personal skills, employing them on the home farm to excellent effect. Jacob’s passion for getting involved in farming politics is outstanding – one to watch out for.”

Hannah Moule, owner of Moule&Co and The Business Barn

Farmers Weekly Awards 2018 Young Farmer of the Year is sponsored by RSPCA Assured

The other finalists were: 

  • Hannah Jackson, Brookside Farm, Croglin, Carlisle
  • Matt Waldie, West Gilston Mains, Leven, Fife