Case Study: Rhydian Thomas

1st July 2014

This article, about Rhydian Thomas, first appeared in the July 2014 edition of Sheep Farmer magazine. Rhydian (24) is an NSA Next Generation Ambassador and also the current European Young Shepherd of the Year. He works alongside his father and brother on the family farm in Rhydcymerau, Carmarthenshire, and does shearing and contracting off the farm.

This year is starting out well, with plenty of grass about and ewes and lambs performing. The area hasn’t seen such good spring growth before, especially compared with last year, and this has made a dramatic effect on concentrate usage, probably using about 15t less this year.

Lamb prices has been good so far and while we sold some lambs lighter than preferable (averaging 36kg) this paid off as we sold them at £5.05/kg and a week later they went down to £4.65/kg. So it’s a shame we didn’t have more ready then.

These lambs were Texel cross Mule lambs but most of our ewes are Beulah Speckled Face, with my grandfather starting the flock 40 years ago. My father and mother now run the farm, with myself and my brother Aled. Me and Aled work off the farm most of the time and help at home when required. We are quite fortunate that our father is relatively young, still thinks he’s 21 years old, easily manages the farm and still likes to come shearing with me occasionally when I’m busy, giving us youngsters a bit of a sweat to make sure we keep in front of him!

Looking for right opportunity

I would much rather work at home than off the farm but unfortunately the business is not big enough to keep more people at home. I would like to rent some land and start my own flock but the price of renting ground locally is much too expensive for sheep farmers, with competition from the dairy farmers pushing all land values higher. Also, the current system with the Single Farm Payment doesn’t help where farmers can receive a payment and don’t actively farm their land. Until an opportunity arises I continue to do my shearing work, contract lambing and other shepherding work throughout the year.

The NSA has provided me with fantastic opportunities, such as having the chance to compete in Young Shepherd competitions and, after winning the Welsh title, being fortunate enough to go to France for the European final. I not only got the chance to compete at that level but also meet other young shepherds and learn a lot from their experiences and ideas.

Somehow I also managed to win the competition, becoming the European Young Shepherd of the Year. This also got me involved with the Next Generation Ambassador Group, which so far has been great and I am looking forward to the rest of the year with the group. It has not only been very beneficial in terms of the information and knowledge we have received, but also meeting 10 other young farmers with the same enthusiasm for the sheep industry and sharing ideas and experiences with them. I am very grateful to the NSA for giving me these opportunities.

Fact File

  • 600 ewes, mainly Beulah Speckled Face kept pure, plus some Mules put to the Texel
  • 30 Limousin cross suckler cows, put to the Limousin and calves sold as stores
  • Upland farm; 750-1,100ft above sea level; all grass