BRIDGEND, SOUTH WALES
Sheep & Cattle
SHEEP & CATTLE, SOUTH WALES: Despite coming from a family of potters, Ceri always knew she wanted to work in farming and studied Rural Estate Management at Seale Hayne Agricultural college (now part of the University of Plymouth) with a view to becoming an auctioneer. Through Young Farmers she met her husband Roger whose family owned Tylacoch, a 235-acre (95-hectare) hill farm between the Llynfi and the Garw valleys in South Wales.
For ten years they continued doing other jobs – Ceri working for a commercial property developer and then as a playgroup leader and Roger working in IT – just helping on the farm at weekends, but following the death of Roger’s parents they moved into the farmhouse and took over running the farm. Ceri now works pretty much full time on the farm, while Roger still continues his job with a Swedish defence company, which will remain their main source of income until the farm can wash its face financially.
Today the farm has a commercial closed flock of ewes, plus three pedigree flocks of Welsh black mountain, balwen and torddu (badger face) sheep. There are around nine rams too. The farm also has a herd of 17 suckler (for beef) cows. All the livestock live outdoors all year round, their grazing supplemented by hay and silage that’s produced on the farm. Sheep lamb outside in late March or April.
Ceri is keen to learn more about, and encourage, the biodiversity of the farm. “I think this is an area which our farm does really well on, given that it’s been untouched for so long,” she says, adding that she's now auditing the farm’s carbon and biodiversity.
The couple have two teenage boys whom they are encouraging to work away from the farm initially, before they decide whether to return to the family farm.
Ceri volunteers with a local rural playgroup in the Vale of Glamorgan and is passionate about educating children about farming. “Even though my playgroup is in a rural area nearly every child, when asked, will still say milk, eggs and meat comes from a supermarket and never from a farm, or animal. Maybe this is a generational thing, maybe not, but it is more important now than ever that children are made aware at an early age about where our food comes from. I am ‘new’ to farming, and I love learning about it and I want to share that experience to help others learn about agriculture too.”
Ceri enjoys finding out what makes her animals tick and learning about their physiology and health. She also likes the challenge of finding solutions to tricky problems with the livestock. “I have had an incredibly steep learning curve about everything on the farm, from paperwork to livestock to dead stock – it’s such a varied job,” she says. “I have learnt lots of new skills, and I am keen to keep learning more.”
The bits she doesn’t enjoy? “It has to be death. After five years or so I still have tears and question how or what I could have done to save the lamb or ewe or calf. I also hate making the decision to cull the old ewes who are six or seven years old and ‘past their productive’ life. “
A subject Ceri feels strongly about is the survival of family farms. “Many farms around us are being taken up by large farming businesses, which makes it harder for people to come into farming. Also, it can appear that big machinery and intensive farming are the norm, but these do not help us tackle climate change, the biggest challenge facing mankind right now.”
Member of National Sheep association and National Farmers Union. On the Llandaff Diocesan property board