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.
I am pleased to say lambing has all but passed without too many problems and March did indeed leave like a lamb, although a few sleety days at the back end of the month challenged the nerve on whether or not to house more ewes. The weather passed and ewes remained outside.
The daytime and evening temperatures have been uncommonly kind to both man and beast and has made easier work of outdoor lambing.
A few breeding changes were made this year, with my home cross-bred rams over the yearlings, increasing maternal replacement numbers and a narrower head for ease of lambing.
This has been an invaluable decision with no lambing assistance needed and impressive vigour and size of lambs.
My indoor trial of antibiotic-free management has returned little losses so far, although the wet weekend saw a shot of antibiotics given to all lambs turned out over those few wet days. One mild case of joint ill and one wet mouth death hardly justify a full flock blanket antibiotic course.
Outdoor lambing is coming out favourite with me, but it is determined by not only weather, but equally, genetics and vigour. It is not work-free though and something only a true stockman can master. With an indoor system and being short on labour, our farm is too dependent on the reliability of temporary student staff.
Luckily, we have so far been fortunate, but I have noticed today’s youth is increasingly dependent on WiFi, with selfies and Snapchat competing with life or death livestock husbandry.
It has been a busy month on-farm, which saw the intake of 50 young calves from the Wales YFC Integrated Beef scheme, in association with Dunbia. These are good quality calves and have now weaned off milk and are growing well. It is a trial and its success means it is now being rolled out throughout Wales YFC members.
The early application of nitrogen is down and swards are reacting rapidly. This week we have spread manure onto parcels used for lambing on which have been eaten by hungry mouths.