John Davies runs an upland
stock farm in mid-Wales.
The main holding at Pentre
comprises 145ha (360
acres) of grass, with some
short-term grass lets being
taken, and hill rights
extending to 97ha (240
acres). The farm carries 101
suckler cows, 975 ewes,
230 Beulah speckled face
ewe lambs and 35 Welsh
ITS NOT over til the fat lady sings – or in farming terms – dont count your chickens before they hatch, or lambs before you sell them! Some breeds swim better than others and its not a recognised trait of Blue Faced Leicesters, with Charollais/Bleu DMaines, etc being even worse! We found ourselves having nearly completed lambing with new-born lambs being kept in, but even some week-old lambs were dying in extreme weather. With all the other problems facing the industry, Mother Nature still sometimes has the final say.
We turned some heifers out during the last days of March to a field which we intended to plough, then reseed with a short-term ley and undersow with barley for some whole-crop silage. But after a couple of weeks, the heifers had done a good job of ploughing the field and were taken up to Lampeter.
We picked up the hoggs from Pembrokeshire which were drenched and then turned out onto the MOD range. On Apr 7 we turned 30 cows and calves out due to being short of silage. On Apr 9 the nearby village of Talgarth made national news as it was flooded. Needless to say, the cows and calves did not need much persuading to come back in. After assessing the ground conditions and supply of silage left, I decided it was time for some serious crawling to friends and family regarding their over-supply of silage. I managed to acquire a couple of weeks supply at very reasonable rates.
I attended an excellent CEJA conference (European Council of Young Farmers) in Morpeth, Northumberland. Agenda 2000, as we all know, is here and its time we make our voice heard. With 80% of Wales designated LFA its quite incredulous that we didnt qualify for any of the dairy quota allocated to hill areas, so its vital that we get our act together and make sure that we access as much as possible of the new dairy quota that is available to young farmers under the age of 40.
I tried a New Zealand drill designed to rejuvenate sward through slot seeding. One of the keys to success is moisture, another is heavy grazing. Neither seem a problem at the moment.
Some weeks later than normal we have started marking lambs. One advantage of the sheep shed is you can keep going through the showers.
I spent a day travelling around north Wales promoting Welsh lamb and beef to two of the bosses of Trust Meats, London. They are responsible for getting top quality meat into some of the finest establishments in the capital. We started off at Meurig Reess farm near Tywyn. This was then followed by a visit to Mr Reess abattoir operating on a small scale but to the highest standards. Back to the farm with a dinner to rival any London restaurant, then on to Cwmni Cig Arfon, a modern abattoir and cutting plant in Caernarfon. Lets hope some orders follow. *
Wet weather has meant John Davies had to buy in silage to tide him over until ground conditions allow livestock to graze again.