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Farming

Agriculture’s importance emphasised

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(L-R): Stephen Mansel Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, Kaye Mansel Davies, FUW Deputy President, Brian Thomas, and FUW President, Glyn Roberts

(L-R): Stephen Mansel Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, Kaye Mansel Davies, FUW Deputy President, Brian Thomas, and FUW President, Glyn Roberts

A DELEGATION of Farmers’ Union of Wales officials met with Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, on Monday (Aug 15) to discuss the wider economic and social importance of agriculture to the rural and urban economy as well as the importance of encouraging the next generation into the industry. 

The meeting was held at Llwyncelyn Lan farm, Llanfyrnach – home of FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas who has been farming here since 1988. The delegation then visited Mansel Davies and Son Ltd. to discuss the history and nature of the business and its interrelationship with the agricultural industry and rural economy.

Brian Thomas, who farms 280 acres, 30 acres of which is woodland, in North Pembrokeshire, runs a herd of 100 beef shorthorn cattle and a flock of 300 ewes, with cereals also being grown.

Speaking after the meeting, FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas said: “I would first of all like to thank Lesley Griffiths for meeting us here at my home farm. We had wide ranging discussions on farming matters and used the opportunity to highlight the important role farming plays in our rural economy.

“If we are to encourage the next generation to take up farming, it has to be viable for them. Looking around here, there are only one in eight farms that have children who want to take over the family business. The average age of farmers in my local area is 60 plus, so we need to put measures in place that ensure these farms have a future for the sake of our rural economy.

“I see the future for farming in youth. However, with farm household incomes averaging around £13,000 a year and working hours exceeding 60+ per week – why would they? Due to the nature of the business, we are only ever one step away from a crisis.

“Our farming businesses provide stability for the rural economy, income for our children and our families and hold communities together. We now have an opportunity to do something great – and that is shaping our own future in terms of markets and legislations, a point we made clear to the Cabinet Secretary here today.”

Highlighting how important the second and third sector businesses are in making the wheels of our rural economies go around were Stephen and Kaye Mansel Davies of Mansel Davies and Son Ltd.

The company was established in 1875 by the late John Davies. Mansel Davies, his son, joined the business in 1900 and the company still uses that name today. The company is now run by Kaye Mansel Davies (Chairman), fourth generation, and his son Stephen Mansel Davies (Managing Director). The next generation are already involved in the company.

They currently employ over 300 people and operate 180 trucks, with all of its employees living within a 40 mile radius of Llanfyrnach. Apart from the local authority and the oil refinery, they are the largest employers in Pembrokeshire with an annual turnover just short of £30 million.

Stephen Mansel Davies highlighted that 90% of the company’s work is linked to agricultural, saying that: “We are the largest milk haulier in Wales, collecting 1.4 million litres per day for seven different buyers and doing UK distribution for a further two buyers. Our total milk or milk products movements comes to about four million litres per day.”

The company delivers milk and milk products into processors in Newcastle Emlyn, Llangefni, South Caernarfon, Felinfach, Acton, London, Southampton, Droitwich, Bridgewater, Westbury, North Tawton, Aylesbury, Chester, Severnside and a number of other factories around the UK.

Another important sector of the business is the distribution of animal feed in the area. Mansel Davies and Son are also the largest suppliers of ground limestone, which they also spread on to the land for soil neutralisation.

Following the meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Stephen Mansel Davies said: “All of those who are involved in Government need to understand how important agriculture is to Wales – it’s the only sustainable long term industry we have. When you look at the numbers employed directly and indirectly into the sector, it is far more important than people and Government give it credit for.

“Agriculture, and in particular the dairy industry, has just gone through very hard times with farm gate prices dropping in the region of 30%, which is not sustainable. As a direct result of low milk prices, we have seen volumes drop 11% from July 15 to July 16. If managed correctly, I think Brexit could bring long term positives to agriculture – the important part will be the management by government of the transition period and the short term.”

The Union will continue to highlight how much farming matters through regular meetings with key decisions makers, industry stakeholders, as well as Governments in Westminster and Cardiff.

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Farming

Alpaca settle in on Welsh hills

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A HERD of alpaca at Aberystwyth University’s upland research centre welcomed two new arrivals during the Covid-19 lockdown.
One male and one female baby alpaca, known as cria, were born at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Platform and are settling down to life in the Cambrian Mountains.
They are the first cria to be born on the University’s land and to be registered under the centre’s new stud prefix ‘Peiran’.
Peiran Champagne and Peiran Cosmopolitan join a small herd of alpacas who arrived at Pwllpeiran in October 2019 as part of a new research project.
Scientists want to see whether the South American alpaca is suited to life in the Welsh hills and could provide new opportunities for uplands farming.
These long-necked animals, similar to the llama, are renowned for the quality of their fibre (wool) and are happy to feed on low quality grasses which are often snubbed by sheep.
The research project is being led by Dr Mariecia Fraser at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Centre, which is part of the University’s Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).
“These are changing times for Welsh upland farming, with the next round of support payments expected to push for a shift away from primary agricultural production towards nature conservation and carbon reduction. In setting up a research herd of alpacas at Pwllpeiran, we want to test whether the alpaca could offer hill farmers a viable alternative to sheep.
“As well as producing high quality fibre, camelids like alpacas have evolved adaptations to enable them to live off poor quality tussock grasses in the Andes, and are happy to tuck into invasive grasses such as Molinia. These forages grow in abundance on the Welsh uplands but tend to be shunned by native sheep. We’ll be looking at the impact of their grazing and how well they could fit in to traditional patterns of farming here,” said Dr Fraser.
The establishment of the initial research herd is being funded by the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust, which was set up by the Aberystwyth alumna in 1988.

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Farming

Beef calf registrations increase

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NEW figures released by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that the number of beef calves registered in Wales in the first five months of 2020 is the highest it’s been for several years.
Across Britain there has been an overall rise of 1.2% in calves – both dairy and beef – registered between January and May 2020, compared to the same period last year. In Wales the figure is higher, with an increase of 3.1%.
According to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) the statistics reflect a range of factors, including a trend of producing more cross-bred calves from the dairy herd.
Some of the beef breeds and cross breeds showing the biggest increases in terms of calf registrations in Wales include the Aberdeen Angus (up 11.7%) and Hereford (up 4.8%), whilst both Charolais and British Blue registrations are up just over 4%.
The 2020 figures are a contrast to the last five years, where BCMS calf registration data has indicated a flat picture in the Welsh beef registrations.
HCC market analyst Glesni Phillips said, “These figures could show a positive sign for the future of the beef industry in Wales, and reflect broader trends in both the beef and dairy sectors.
“This comes despite the beef sector being hit by uncertainty in recent times. A combination of market conditions led to low farm-gate prices last year, and demand fluctuated widely in the early stages of the Coronavirus lockdown as pubs and restaurants closed their doors.
“However, we’ve seen encouraging consumption figures throughout Britain in the second half of the spring, with great support from consumers for home-produced beef, with its high standards of welfare and environmental sustainability.”
One high-profile new entrant into the beef sector is international rugby referee Nigel Owens MBE, who has recently started his own ‘Mairwen’ herd of Hereford cattle in Carmarthenshire.
“Having worked at Wern Farm Drefach when I was younger it had always been a dream of mine to keep my own herd,” said Nigel, who has built up to around 30 cattle so far on a 116-acre holding, “and if anything the lockdown has given the chance to get things up and running more quickly, as we’ve been able to get on with fencing, hedge-laying and developing our soil and pasture.”
Nigel added, “Each breed has its supporters, but from an early age I recall visiting my uncle and aunt’s farm, Pentwyn in Llannon, who had a Hereford bull running with the dairy herd. My cousin Helen and Gwyndaf near Aberaeron who run the Creuddyn Hereford herd have also been a valuable source of advice. For me, the cattle have a calm nature and calve easily. They’ll also produce good-quality meat which is important as we develop the business in future.”

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Farming

New edition of Welsh meat ‘Bible’ launched

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has launched the latest edition of its ‘Little Book of Meat Facts’, the annual digest of facts, figures and trends for the nation’s lamb, beef and pork industries.
Among the key figures in this year’s edition were that Welsh red meat production was worth an estimated £690 million in 2018, compared with £677 million the previous year.
In 2019, total throughput of cattle and calves in Welsh abattoirs stood at 147,600 head, with total beef production totalling 42,900 tonnes (up from 40,000 tonnes the previous year). Throughput of sheep and lambs stood at 3.3 million head, with total sheep meat production totalling 63,400 tonnes, compared with 60,800 in 2018.
France remained the largest destination for lamb exports, but with important growth in trade with Germany which is now in a clear second place. Beef and lamb exports were mostly to Europe, although with significant trade to other markets in the Middle East, East Asia and Canada.
The Little Book also contains information on what kinds of meat British consumers are buying and from which retailers, as well as data on key industry measures such as carcase classification.
HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said; “We usually launch the Little Book of Meat Facts at the Royal Welsh Show, so that farmers and other stakeholders can browse the latest statistics.
“Of course, this year that’s not possible, so we’re launching it virtually and making it available on our website.
“What all the statistics show is that, despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit and now of course the disruption of COVID-19, the red meat sector is hugely important to the Welsh economy. It’s the backbone of rural communities, and also employs large numbers in auction markets, processing and the supply chain, as well as supporting brands which are symbols of our nation’s high-quality food across the world.”

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