Sheep, beef & laying hens
SHEEP, BEEF, LAYING HENS, POWYS: Ioan took over management of the family’s upland and hill farm aged just 20 when his father became ill, and six years later, in 2019, added a 32,0000 free-range laying hen unit to diversify and boost the income.
The 500-acre farm has been in the family since 1903, and now has 850 ewes (Welsh Mountain, Welsh Speckled Face, Texel, Suffolk and Welsh Mules), 20 cattle (Hereford, Angus and British Blue suckler cows with a pedigree Limousin bull) and 32,000 laying hens.
In addition, Ioan’s mother runs a small holiday business of three log cabins on the farm.
From his flocks, lambs are reared out at grass with their mother until they are weaned, before being fattened (taken up to slaughter weight) on grass and a small amount of concentrate feed (cereal based manufactured feed), fed if required.
Lambs are finished (ready for slaughter) at 30kg to 40kg bodyweight, dependent on breed, and sold directly from farm to the abattoir. Ioan keeps around 200 lambs a year to rear on as the next generation of breeding females.
Good at converting forage to growth, the breeds in his herd suit the grass-based system he operates. His suckler herd is kept fit and fertile with purchased heifer (female) calves that are reared to breeding age before entering the main herd as new breeding females.
Calves born in the herd are reared on their mother out at grass before being weaned and sold as 10-month-old store cattle (reared youngstock that are yet to be fattened) at Shrewsbury livestock market.
Ioan is a real poultryman and knows the value of enrichment: His Lowman Brown hens have access to a range of toys and accessories that allow them to carry out natural behaviours like perching, pecking, foraging, and dust bathing, preventing boredom and boosting welfare. In return, hens produce on average 370 eggs each over their lifetime.
Ioan’s favourite part of farming is working with the animals, seeing them grow and improve throughout the year, as well as improving the land. He also enjoys speaking to others about farming; he often holds open days at the hen shed for agriculture students and other farmers who are looking to diversify into poultry.
Less enjoyable is the bad press and negativity that surrounds being a farmer, as well as the fact that the supermarkets control the price, making farmers price-takers not price-makers.
Ioan says: “I would like to help educate the nation on why British agriculture is so important and how it is totally taken for granted. I don’t think we get enough positive press and I feel I would be able to help with this.”
There are a lot of poultry units in the local area, and Ioan is sometimes astounded by the level of negativity around them. However, he feels that this is due to lack of knowledge and a hangover from the older systems. “I feel poultry is one of the highest regulated sectors yet most of the public don’t know we adhere to the highest welfare standards through the RSPCA, Lion Code and packers. I feel a lot more people would buy free-range eggs or chicken if they knew the true story of the process.”
S4C ffermio filmed an episode on the poultry unit in Welsh in 2021, and Ioan was also interviewed on a Welsh radio station speaking about the unit.