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Young Farmer Focus: John Wrench, Hawarden, Flintshire

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John Wrench, 32, farms in partnership with his parents and grandparents on 188 hectares (467 acres) of beef and arable rented land from Hawarden estate. He farms 200 mixed breed bullocks, 19ha (48 acres) of winter wheat, 14ha (36 acres) of barley and grows 48ha (120 acres) of maize.

 

Dairy: In the last week we have had a few new cattle which have been vaccinating with 10 in one and they have also had a pneumonia jab.

 

With the weather picking up and the land a little drier, I have been busy putting fertiliser on the grass, wheat and barley, and have pressure harrowed grassland. I have always wanted to branch out into dairy farming.

 

After studying dairy at Llysfasi College in 2002, I developed a keen interest, so travelled to New Zealand in 2010 to work on a dairy farm for six months.

 

After this, we planned to start a spring block-calving system last year, but after finding it impossible to obtain a milk contract for spring milk, we had to shelve the idea.

 

I was keen on this system for its simplicity and it was the cheapest way to get into dairy farming on a mainly tenanted farm.

 

Organic: More recently we have been looking into organic dairy, as it is also a grass-based system and we could be virtually self-sufficient with our low food miles.

 

The main thing I find appealing is the organic milk price does not seem to be as volatile as the conventional milk price.

 

We have applied for the Welsh Government Sustainable Production Grant, but were not successful on our first attempt. Hopefully application forms will open again soon so we can re-apply.

 

The grant would enable us to build a slurry system, cow shed and milking parlour.

 

Being tenant farmers, I am not sure if such a large and expensive infrastructure would be viable without this grant.

 

Opportunity: I am also looking into rearing youngstock.

 

We trialled it in 2012 with a small group of calves and had a positive outcome.

 

My wife would like a more active role in the farm business and this would provide her with an enjoyable opportunity.

 

Future: Although the future is uncertain, I am hopeful Brexit will be positive for agriculture.

 

I feel the current subsidy system is flawed and likely encourages less effective producers to carry on.

 

I think it might prevent keen farmers or new entrants the opportunity to farm areas more efficiently, with lower land values and rents as margins currently being very tight for tenants.

 

Having said this, I fully understand the current concerns and pressures facing sheep farming in Wales.

 

I spoke to farmers in New Zealand about subsidies and most felt the removal of the system in the 1980s has benefited agriculture in the long run.

 

They said it encouraged less-effective farmers to release land to make way for keen farmers to expand and develop their businesses sustainably.

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