It’s the one thing we rely on most, the one thing we can’t control and a common thread in all Farmer Focus columns – the weather.
As all good shearers know, sun on a sheep’s back will produce a rise in the fleece, easing the process for both sheep and shearer. We hope by the time this goes to print we will have made a start on shearing. In their prime, Jim and his brother Huw would shear about 30,000 sheep a year. The baton is now being passed to our nephews, with son Sam training up well.
Now, shearing is thirsty work and I’m assured homemade cider is an essential part (best drunk after the job is done). We have a cider house dating back to the 17th century, when it was customary for farm workers to be part paid in cider. This practice was prohibited in 1887, but I’m not sure that information has reached Jim! We still make it here and with no added yeast, sugar or water, it surely has to count towards your five a day. We’re currently restoring the old orchard, with 100 traditional trees to be planted in the New Year. The orchard will also provide food for our bees in return for their vital assistance in pollination. Jim was proud his cider featured at the Clytha Cider Festival last month.
My arrival in Wales 24 years ago to work at the local veterinary surgery was part of a short-term plan. The blame for my continuing presence lies firmly on the shoulders of Abergavenny Young Farmers. Not only is the YFC a fantastic youth organisation, it is probably the largest rural dating agency in the UK – and it certainly worked for Jim and me.
We are proud to be hosting the Gwent YFC rally on 15 June on the Skirrid Farm, which has amazing panoramic views, and it’s a pleasure to see our 14- year-old son enjoying the YFC as did his parents and grandparents before him.
Kate Beavan farms 200ha alongside her husband Jim on one of two family farms near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. The main enterprises comprise 900 breeding ewes and 50 suckler cows. Meat is sold direct to the family’s traditional butchers shop. Kate and Jim hosted the first series of Lambing Live in 2010