Lambing must be over because roast lamb is back on the menu at Yscoedreddfyn and very nice it is too – tasty, home produced Welsh lamb – though disastrously out of spec apparently! As food producers, consideration of the market and consumer trends is always useful and it has been brought into focus in the recent Red Meat Strategic Action Plan (2015-2020) for Wales consultation recently.
The emphasis on decreasing the number of light lambs marketed is perplexing to Bobby, who has built a business - from nothing - on hill ewes and light lambs. This has included selling lambs with standard weight potential early - and therefore light - to capitalise on a stronger market earlier in the season in advance of the ‘post weaning slump’. Last year we sold 28kg lambs for £70 at the end of June – these lambs were for export so not depressing the home trade. By the time these lambs reached standard weight they would have sold for no more money and costs would have been higher.
Bobby strongly believes that future opportunities for lamb producers do not lie in homogenizing our product and restricting our marketing options; but in placing an emphasis on boosting consumption - getting more lamb onto the supermarket shelves here and opening new markets abroad. Perhaps it’s just the post lambing blues – but he has fears of a ‘perfect storm’ with reducing demand, uncertainty over CAP compounded by unfavourable Euro rates. Aggressive marketing of our first-class product has to be viewed as an integral part of the solution.
Back to business, and we are busy marking lambs. The hoggs are expected back from tack in the next few days and the grass is finally growing.
This year’s BPS has been completed. Troublesome as it has been for us all, the process marks two significant changes for us. This is the first time we have required assistance for form-filling, not least due to our hopeless broadband.
Secondly, for the first time ever the area we have claimed has got smaller - not because we have lost land, but because of the senseless rules relating to trees. There is some irony, that in terms of agricultural production, the 8ha (20 acres) we have declared ineligible have provided invaluable shelter and grazing during recent weeks, contributing much to the productivity of our business. I hope this doesn’t beckon the end of our expansion ideas.
Rachel and her husband Bob, farm Yscoedreddfyn, near Brecon, Mid Wales. They bought the 109ha (270-acre) farm, which rises to 400m (1, 300ft) with common rights on Mynydd Bach Trecastle and rent a 45ha (110-acre) hill farm with grazing rights on a local MoD range. They farm 950 ewes, mainly Epynt Hardy Speckled.