Farmer Focus: Worried about a ‘no deal’ Brexit for Welsh farming

Tupping time is upon us. Our plan for this year was to reduce the commercial flock and concentrate on our nucleus of Abermax ewes, coupled with an increase in the suckler herd.

We have increased the suckler numbers slightly, but with commercial ewe prices worryingly low we have decided not to sell.

We cannot justify selling fit and healthy sheep at such low prices. It is of course a double-edged sword, with the cost of keeping livestock increasing year on year.

Medicinal costs continue to rise, as do fertilisers and feed. This makes is difficult to turn the pasture into profit, and the price we receive from processors cannot be blamed.

See also: Advice on winter feeding dairy animals amid forage shortages

The downturn in demand for breeding ewes is a reflection of the difficult and uncertain economic climate faced by sheep farmers, nowhere more so than in Wales.

Wales is heavily reliant on agriculture, with 4.1% of the population working within the sector, compared with the UK average of 1.4%.

Wales accounts for 9% of the UK land mass and 5% of the population; but has 29% of the UK sheep flock. This shows our dependence on the industry and how devastating it could be if a ‘no deal’ Brexit is the outcome.

A failure to secure a favourable deal will not only affect the Welsh sheep farmers, but also the processors that rely on a strong market and plentiful headage to ensure throughput and economies of scale.

Wales has been very fortunate to see large investments in processing facilities, and I have a state-of-the-art facility within a stone’s throw of the farm yard.

These facilities ensure that lambs are processed to the highest animal welfare standards and with the latest technology.

There is no doubt that all stakeholder investment and future plans are on hold while we await the decision that will shape our industry for generations to come.

While we wait, consumers will continue to buy our world-leading produce and we will continue to be proud producers of Welsh produce and advocates for British farming.

Shaun Hall Jones is a Farmer Focus writer in Carmarthenshire. Read his biography.