We recently caught up with a familiar face for the Young Farmer Focus Column. Here FUW Ceredigion member Helen Howells, 32, tells us what she’s been up to.
Helen farms with her husband, Peter, on a 220 acre family-run beef and sheep unit near Lampeter, Ceredigion. They specialise in breeding pedigree livestock under the Gwenog and Pedr prefixes, presenting Charolais bulls and Texel tups at sales across the UK. They also run a commercial suckler herd, flock of mules, and rear beef-cross dairy calves to sell on as store cattle. Helen runs her own consultancy from the farm, Hwylus, providing values-based consultancy for the rural sector. You can follow her on Facebook – @GwenogPedrLivestock
We finished lambing over a fortnight ago so our attention has turned to managing the soil and grassland. The contractors took out a dressing of slurry recently and we’ve been moving the young stock around different pastures, getting ready to turn the cattle out. I had the fun job of vaccinating the lambs against Orf on Sunday, a messy job but it was great to have a thorough looksy at this year’s crop of Texels.
We’re really pleased with the new stock ram we bought last Autumn. He’s thrown some decent lambs for us. It’s been great to see our customers sharing pictures of their lambs on Facebook. We sold our first draft of Texel tups at the NSA Main Ram Sale in Builth last Autumn, reaching a top price of 880gns. We measure our success on the impact our stock has on our customers’ businesses. This next year is about increasing our profile, capitalising on 40 years’ experience of terminal sire breeding and making sure customers know that they can come to us for sound Texel tups, focusing on confirmation, correctness and character. Repeat custom and referrals are key for us and we’re proud to stand behind our Charolais bulls and Texel rams.
Theresa May has announced a General Election for June, another massive uncertainty for the industry, along with Brexit. As livestock farmers in West Wales, our profitability is closely related to the value of the export market and further volatility on this front makes forward planning difficult. Our focus for the next 5-10 years is growth and maximizing returns through efficiency but political uncertainty and trade makes it harder to make sound investment choices. They say fortune favours the bold and investing in land seems a safe bet but talks of falling agricultural land prices, amid no sign of a trade deal for red meat puts young farmers in a vulnerable position. Taking a global political outlook, food security may become high on the public agenda, with America and North Korea’s posturing a stark reminder of why #FarmingMatters.
“It’s OK to Say”
“The stiff upper lip” is synonymous with the rural farming community. Most of us just get on with things, often hiding problems from ourselves and talking about our “feelings” is alien and uncomfortable. We’ve faced some pretty low-points as a community in the last few years –TB, price volatility and NVZ proposals – this all puts a strain on our resolve.
The Royal Family’s ‘Heads Together’ campaign, the main charity for the London marathon this year, gives hope to many of us who feel uncomfortable talking about this kind of thing. Farming is often a solitary profession, which reinforces the importance of marts, vets’ surgeries, agricultural merchants and local shows as key social hubs for farmers.
These are ‘spaces’ where issues of concern are aired and shared and where we can begin to normalise mental health conversations. Perhaps the recent rise in Business rates should have been pre-empted by a Health Impact Assessment on rural communities, where farmers are continually highlighted as vulnerable health groups.
It’s about time to break the stigma attached to mental health and if you’re feeling vulnerable, please open-up and speak to someone. #Itsoktosay