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Farming matters: Joe Mault - 'Fashion reigns supreme in the mart as much as the catwalk'

I have always been in admiration of progressive farmers and their rotational grazing, use of technology and, of course, the latest improvements of weatherproof clothing from New Zealand.

Joe Mault - North Wales farmer and college lecturer
Joe Mault - North Wales farmer and college lecturer

However, more recently I have been contemplating if the ’progressiveness’ is merely the fashion conscious farmers keeping up with the latest trends.

 

Take the sheep breeding sales over the autumn. We saw extraordinary prices for some breeding sheep, but if you were to look a little closer on what was being bought it was the Mules and a well-known genetic company in Mid Wales’ sheep that took many a fancy.

 

Mongrels some might label both, but long gone are the days of another mongrel, the Welsh Half-Bred. The Welsh Half-Bred was ever so popular in the late 1980s and 1990s, with thousands being sold.

 

But, in more recent times, these are suddenly out of fashion with yearling ewes being bought for £100 while the Mule sales where attracting double that.

 

In comparison, both are derived from hill ewes and sired by a lowland ram, so is the performance between the two really worth a £100 difference?

 

I don’t know, but all I can put it down to is fashion, as there is no real evidence to suggest both mongrels are miles apart.

 

The same can be said for tups during the autumn. In years gone by you would always struggle to compete with other farmers buying the latest Dutch Texel or Beltex, but last autumn the trend made these breeds more reasonable.


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The latest favourite it seems is the Charmoise breed with some attracting good prices so they can be used on smaller sheep or ewe lambs.

 

You would not have thought this five or 10 years ago as most progressive farmers saw them as ’ugly’.

 

Maybe it’s a sign of moving forward that some trends or fashions seem to come and go, but it’s interesting to see the flurry of ideas that come back from New Zealand after a summer of shearing by the son or daughter of a chequebook holder.

 

Romneys, rotational grazing and a dog that barks a lot all start being seen on such units. But even so, it’s great to see these younger members of the farming community take a lead and impress some ideas onto our farming industry.

 

I guess ’progressiveness’ is just the idea of changing ideas and not being stuck in your ways and, sometimes, these ideas might be taken from the past or someone’s own ideas or from abroad.

 

All I can suggest is that fashion is not constricted to the catwalks of Paris or London but you might find it also in the livestock markets and farms across the UK.

 

After all, it wasn’t that long ago we thought beanie hats, which have replaced the flat cap, were used for tea cosies.

 

Truly progressive farmers are to be admired as it is them who lay the path for others to follow and, I guess, when others follow it becomes fashionable.

 

So, in conclusion, there is a difference, but those who see themselves as progressive is still a matter up for debate.

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