Mid-Wales livestock farmer Brian Davies has a passion for showing and a judging record to be proud of.
As show societies up and down the country elect their presidential teams and prepare to send out thousands of schedules listing their competitive classes, Britain’s oldest agricultural fixture is claiming another unique record.
Founded in April 1755, the Brecknock Agricultural Society, which stages the annual Brecon County Show, has appointed its longest running exhibitor as the 2014 president – and they do not come much more competitive than Brian Davies.
This year’s show will mark his continuous 60-year run of exhibiting sheep and cattle, with more than a few supreme championships along the way as well.
Mr Davies says: “I competed for the first time at Brecon Show when I was eight years old.”
He is more widely known under the family trading name of I.T. Davies and Son, Dan-yr-Eglwys, Garthbrengy, near Brecon, Powys.
He says: “I competed for the first time at Brecon Show when I was eight years old.”
These days he shares his farming workload with his son Geraint, who like his father has become a staunch supporter of both the summer and winter show scene at venues across the UK.
What makes them different, too, is the multitude of sheep breeds they keep and exhibit as a family – five at the last count.
The tenanted 72-hectare (180-acre) severely disadvantaged area hill farm rises to 350 metres (1,150ft) with its spectacular panoramic views of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains.
The father and son team specialises in breeding four breeds of sheep – pedigree Texels, Charollais, and Clun Forest and non-pedigree Beltex.
The fifth breed on the farm is the award-winning Catherton pedigree flock of Ryelands, which is in the capable hands of Brian’s wife Ann.
The longest established is the Honddu flock of Clun Forests, one of the breed’s oldest, with Mr Davies being the fourth generation on the farm to keep them.
Its future was very much under threat, however, when all the sheep on the farm were culled in the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.
Mr Davies says: “We were very fortunate as we had sold some ewes and rams to two people who were following the same breeding lines and we were able to buy some of our bloodlines back.
“As well as Cluns, both father and grandfather also kept Ryelands back in the 1940s and Suffolks in the 1960s. Then when the Texels started to come into the country, we started keeping them.
“Then along came the Charollais and latterly the Beltex. Now we run self-contained flocks of up to 50 ewes for each breed.
“Although we also have 250 Texel cross Welsh commercial ewes going chiefly to Beltex rams to produce finished lambs, primarily we regard ourselves as a pedigree breeding unit producing ewes and rams for breed society sales and privately.
“Showing is a vital part of our marketing. There is no money in it but it does provide a shop window for stock and, yes, we do get follow-up sales.”
Lambing starts with the Charollais in December, the Cluns and Texels lamb in February and everything else follows through until the end of March.
Anything not considered suitable for breeding and the cross-bred lambs are all sold deadweight via the Tesco marketing scheme.
Mr Davies’ activities are not totally confined to showing stock either. His work in breeding high quality livestock and as a pioneer of marketing direct from farm to supermarket has earned him a Royal Agricultural Societies Associateship Award.
He was a founder member of the dedicated group of suppliers of Welsh lamb to a major supermarket chain and is noted for producing many prize-winning rams for the annual National Sheep Association’s Builth Wells ram sale, as well as exporting breeding stock to Europe.
His services are very much in demand as a judge too. And this year his diary is brimful with engagements at both major and somewhat smaller shows across the UK.
He says: “As a family we support as many shows as time permits – but for me Brecon is where it all started and as such will always be a special place.”
As well as sheep, the farm carries 45 suckler cows, which are a mixture of Limousin cross Friesian and British Blue cross Friesians going to Limousin bulls.
The May to June-born calves are sold as forward stores at 18 months old through Brecon market.
Spring- and winter-sown barley is also grown on a rotational basis for home feeding.