James Powell: ‘It has been the best year for lamb growth in memory, with more than 60 already sold’

livestockfarm lifeWeather

James farms 180ha (450 acres) of uplands in Llanbadarn Fynydd, Powys. Married to Rachel with three sons, James runs 1,000 ewes, mostly Aberfield crosses, plus a 50-head suckler herd. An HCC scholar in 2014, he is involved with NFU Cymru’s Next Generation initiative and passionate about rural affairs.


As if by magic, the heavens opened and the rain appeared. It could not have been better timed as we had, just days earlier, limed several areas after a full farm soil testing programme, finished fertiliser and manure spreading, and subdivided and mobbed up the sheep to better utilise the grass.


The wet and humid weather has boosted grass growth tremendously and is now ahead of grazing. I try to best use the better swards by regularly moving the ewes and lambs, with the cows and calves mopping up residuals behind. It has been the best year for lamb growth in memory, with more than 60 already sold finished at respectable weights, for a very good price.


The hogg and lamb couples we have sold have seen fantastic trade, along with the strong new season lamb trade it is boosting cashflow in what are normally the tightest few months. A new grass ley which was drilled in early May has taken flight and is looking very well, though on closer inspection has some strong competition from chickweed and a crop of docks, this after last year being in swedes and the previous year in turnips.


Some other permanent pastures which have previously been productive seem to have an abundance of early maturing, and healthy thistles. Weeds are a constant battle and I do not envy arable farmers in the slightest.


Tractors are not my forte or pleasure and spraying expensive herbicides is costly. The cows have mostly calved but the odd few left are still hanging on in a field where I dread to go, as it means mostly grabbing a calf in mid-flight, wrestling it to the ground as I tag, vaccinate and record, while avoiding the curious maternal cow, and, of course, all in the aforementioned healthy thistles. By now the election is over.


This time last year we were also heading to the voting booth for the EU referendum. We then voted ourselves into a situation of insecurity and unknown, the side of empty promises and false economics, offering change at unknown cost. I hope we have not made the same mistake again.

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