OUTDOOR DAIRY, CARMARTHENSHIRE
Gwyndaf owns and runs a 430-acre (174-hectare) dairy farm in the rolling hills of Carmarthenshire in West Wales. His herd consists of 270 autumn calving (mainly Friesian, plus a few Jersey crosses) cows that are grazed rotationally on grass from spring to autumn. In winter, when the ground is too wet, they are moved indoors where they’re fed home-grown sileage, along with bought-in concentrates.
All the heifer (young female) offspring are reared on, while the dairy bull calves are sold at local cattle markets when they’re a month old. The herd’s milk is sold to a processor who turns it into mozzarella. Brought up on one of the family’s two dairy farms, Gwyndaf is well used to the routine of twice-a-day milking all year round.
In 1999, while Gwndaf was studying agriculture and business studies at The University of Wales in Aberystwyth, his father suddenly died. So as soon as he’d completed his degree Gwyndaf returned to the farm he’d been born on and for around 15 years farmed in partnership with his mother and brother. But as the brothers’ families expanded, and their mother retired, they decided to move to separate farms; Gwyndaf’s brother stayed on the farm the brothers had been brought up on while Gwyndaf moved to the family’s second dairy farm a couple of miles away.
He now has four teenage children, who all lend a hand with milking and feeding the cows when they can at weekends and during school or college holidays. He also has one full-time employee.
Gwyndaf works on another farm too; he’s a partner in a neighbouring dairy farm business which also runs an autumn calving herd.
He loves the seasons, which means no two days are the same on the farm. His least favourite aspect of farming? TB testing. One of the worst times in Gwyndaf’s farming life was when he lost all his cows to TB in 2016/2017, and had to establish a new herd from scratch. “I still go cold when I remember that time,” he says. “One of the most traumatic moments was when seven cows were deemed to be too heavily pregnant to travel and had to be shot on farm. I'm used to seeing cattle euthanised due to an injury or illness but the sight of seven cows on the yard and their stomachs still moving with the calf inside kicking for its life will stay with me forever. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the Welsh Government and the Animal and Plant Health Agency made us feel as if we had tampered with the test. It was a truly horrible time, and affected my children too.”
Gwyndaf believes it’s ironic that for the last 30 to 40 years we’ve all been told to reduce our consumption of red meat and saturated fats to become healthier. "Despite this, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have gone through the roof," he says. "Our health and that of our planet are intrinsically linked. We need to recognise that pasture-based farming helps us produce nutrient rich foods for ourselves, and practise this in a way that enhances our environment. It’s frustrating that there’s such a divide between what people think of farmers and vice versa. The pursuit of efficiency at every level of food production means that the general public have lost touch with how food is produced…..and dare I say it, many farmers have lost touch with their consumers’ concerns as well."
Member of National Farmers Union