Blog: Jacob Anthony
1st March 2016
Jacob Anthony (22) is an NSA NSA Next Generation Ambassador 2016 from Glamorgan, South Wales. Having taken over the sheep element of the family farm, Jacob is enjoying driving the business and planning expansion from his 800 Lleyn cross Texels to nearer 1,000. He is already implementing changes to make the flock more efficient, particularly in terms of labour. Half the flock is now lambed outside, with plans to move more in this direction while still creatingsystems to collect precise performance data. Finishing lambs off grass is another priority, with all lambs sold deadweight off the farm.
So how has Jacob found flock management so far? He modestly says his father has been ‘very good at letting me make my own mistakes’ since he took charge of the flock in 2013 after leaving college! Jacob won the selection panel over with his clear passion for promoting the industry and says this is something he wants to do more of in the future. He says: “There is a massive opportunity for farmers to engage with the public, as there is currently an increase in interest from the public in how food is produced. We can take advantage for the benefit of our industry as a whole.”
Top fact: Jacob got involved in promoting the industry when the lamb price slumped in the summer and appeared on the telly in a piece for ITV Wales.
Scroll down for entries from Jacob about his farming year so far in 2016. You can also keep up to date by following Jacob on Twitter @Jacob_cwmrisca.
Monday (1st February) saw me decide to bring the multiples in for a bit of TLC in the run up to lambing in the hope that some of the better conditioned ewes would be able to return outside for the birth of their lambs. Before this, I had to clean the sheds right out and disinfect them thoroughly to help prevent any potential diseases, this is a routine procedure every year as the majority of the winter see’s these sheds occupied by cattle. Once in, the ewes have continued on a ration of good quality silage and high energy molasses, which they seem to be doing really well on.
The third week in February saw me bolus all the in-lamb ewes on the farm. A copper deficiency on the farm means we’ve been using a copper bolus, something which continues to be a contusions issue for us given that the Texels are extremely sensitive to copper. Giving the ewes a half dose therefore seems to have worked well for us for a number of years and is something we’ll continue to do for the foreseeable future.
It was brilliant to meet all the fellow NSA Ambassadors at the first delivery session this month, and I felt as a group we all jelled very together. I am very much looking forward to the next delivery session in May!
With spring arriving here in the South Wales Valleys, we were pleasantly greeted with sunshine and good weather, something that has been missing for almost the whole of winter! The first week March saw me vaccinate the in-lamb ewes against pasteurella and clostridial diseases, the immunity from the vaccine can then pass on to the ewe’s lambs via colostrum, meaning the lambs should be covered for a considerable period too. I also injected the ewes with an all-round worming and flukicide treatment. I like to try and get all the necessary pre-lambing husbandry done at the same time to limit the overall stress put on the heavy in-lamb ewes.
The majority of the other sheep work the first few weeks of the month has basically consisted of feeding and routine checks. This has fitted in quite nicely with the weather, and we have been able to concentrate on spring cultivations in order to sow barley as well as spreading some much needed Urea onto nearly all the grassland. The latter has come very timely as I was starting to get slightly concerned about the lack of grass around the place!
For the past two years. we have moved away from lambing intensely indoors, and although many will disagree I personally believe that lambs born out are stronger, fitter and healthier. Good weather has meant I’ve been able to turn the twins out to the field during the day and back into the sheds for the night, helping to reduce costs in terms of bedding and feed but also labour. If the weather does take a turn for the worst, we are able to accommodate the lambing ewes as all of our indoor systems are still in place.
Phew we have survived Lambing! I believe it is a good thing to embrace new ideas, listen to other peoples experiences and read up on techniques which could hopefully improve, protect and benefit my farming practices and this lambing, I think we took this ethos to the extreme. After much research and consideration, I decided to try and tackle the dreaded fox problem in a totally different way from usual. We hired in some security in the shape of three alpacas to act as bodyguards. They are part of the camel family and originate from South America and are mainly bred for wool, but it has been found that they possess extreme territorial and protective personality traits, particularly towards wolves, foxes and dogs. They are now commonly found guarding flocks of sheep, and I think they’ve proved to be a success so far. There have been fewer lamb losses to foxes this year compared to last, although this could just be a coincidence I firmly believe it is down to the Alpacas sinister presence!
Overall lambing 2016 has been a success. Although triplets are always an issue with me as they never progress very well here, I was very pleased with the number I fostered on to single ewes. Out of the 38 triplets scanned, I successfully adopted 24 on to single ewes, by far the most I’ve ever managed. I think it was purely just luck that I happened to be in the right place at the right time in order to do them. Despite not been quite as mild and dry as the previous two years, I was still able to implement the new system of lambing the twins out by day and in by night (when the weather permitted) which definitely has made this lambing an efficient one. We have used a third less straw on average, and have also spent nearly £600 less on feed blocks since the ewes were getting enough nutrition off the high energy grass lays. Most importantly though, we’ve saved labour time.
As I am writing this blog all the ewes and lambs are now out grazing on new lays and seem to be doing extremely well. We’re about to enter into another busy month on the farm with calving due to start anytime, there seems to be no end in sight of me finishing playing midwife anytime soon!
After the dust has settled down from a hectic lambing period, the last few weeks have been extremely quiet on the sheep front. Ewes are doing well, grazing on new pastures with their lambs progressing extremely well. As it has been so mild this last month, I haven’t applied any fly preventives to sheep as I am trying to leave it as long as possible without disturbing the lambs, as I feel as little disruption as possible the first few weeks of the lamb’s lives is better. This has meant my only shepherding jobs this month have consisted of through daily checks on the quad bike with my trusty sheepdog Joe.
We have seen a new arrival on the farm since my last blog, a sort of celebrity puppy called Dolly. She is a Welsh sheepdog and out of a litter from Kate Humbles Teg and Tango, the dogs who starred on the BBC 2 Wales programme ‘Kate Humble: My Welsh sheepdog’s tale’. We have used Welsh dogs here for years on the farm as we find them extremely hard and well suited, they are also a good all rounder as they can work cattle every bit as well as sheep.
As I am writing this it’s starting to get me exited to meet up with the rest of the group for our second NSA Next Generation session. It will be interesting to hear how everyone’s lambing went and hopefully by then calving will be done and my couple of months of playing mind wife will be over again for another year!
On the sheep front June has been a fairly hectic one. As usual for this time of the year everything seems to have come at once. The first job I undertook this month was to administer fly strike preventive to the ewes and the lambs. As we are a hill farm, I always treat our ewes with a half rate of short lasting fly preventative before shearing just to give them an extra week to ten days for the wool to rise. They can often be quite sticky, so this extra time makes shearing slightly more pleasant and means there is no panic over any issues occurring if harvest clashes, which inevitably it often does.
I’ve managed to get the odd evening and day away from the farming this month, helping a friend out on his shearing round and last week we manged to make a start on shearing my ewes at home. I’ve also wormed our lambs with a white wormer, and with a good opportunity to see how they are progressing, it was very pleasant to see they are doing well. By the time I write my next blog I hope to have sent a few loads of lambs to the abattoir. With June being unusually cold, this in turn has somewhat hindered the grass growth, while unpredictable rainfall has limiting the amount of bailing we’ve managed to do for both the livestock at home and the local equine market we supply. Things need to change soon as we are falling behind at a worrying rate!
The UK voting to leave the European Union was also significant this month. I for one was very happy with this decision as I am a very firm believer that life outside Europe will undoubtedly be better for us as an agricultural industry long term. The time has come for both sides of the argument to stop squabbling, to unite and move forward to help make Britain Great again. We need to look at it not as a leap into the dark but as a leap into the light.
So where is our summer? With the continued unsettled weather we’ve been experiencing, no doubt this is a question many people have been asking. It has meant that we have been unable to make any hay as of yet, which is slightly worrying for us as we’d usually have around 2,000 large square bales for the local equine market made at this point in the calendar. None the less, at least we have been able to get a large proportion of our yearly haylage bales made.
Grazing for the sheep and cattle has been pretty tight with us at home this last month due to how much land we have had shut out for bailing. So this last few weeks has presented its own challenges in managing grazing as best as possible. Luckily though this shouldn’t be an issue for long, as we only need a few days dry and hopefully all things being well we will be on top of it and have a bit more space for the stock to graze.
As far as the husbandry goes on the sheep front, this last month I have been fairly quiet. I did have a small draw of 30 lambs which were ready for Dunbia and I plan on weaning the lambs in the next week or so I wanted to pull the best lambs before they inevitably fall back in weight straight after being taken off the ewes. I was very happy with the grading on this bunch, as the majority came back as Es and Us. With things working out well, I was able to manage a couple of days away at the Royal Welsh show, the highlight of the agricultural calendar in my eyes. It was a credit to farmers from around the country to see the quality of livestock on show and to the organisers for doing another fantastic job, saying that though I don’t think my liver would agree!
After discussing with a few different people, I decided to purchase some treatment against cobalt and selenium deficiencies and will be using it on a bunch lambs as a bit of a tester to see how it does. I have always boloused the lambs at weaning, but this is never a nice or easy task especially administering them to some of the smaller lambs as you have to be so careful not to cause any damage. I’ll make my comparisons and report on how I think it’s gone in my next blog.
After weaning the lambs, I sexed them into the two bunches of ram lambs and ewe lambs to avoid any unwanted accidents, and after having another pull of the biggest ram lambs for the abattoir me and a friend shore the rest of the bunch. We started shearing our lambs four years ago and undoubtedly see a difference in growth rates as well as ease of management because no one likes to be dagging lambs on a cold, wet winters day! We hope to make a start on the shearing our ewe lambs as soon as we have chance but I am not as concerned with the time frame as I will be keeping the best of them back for myself and the smaller ones won’t be finished for a while off.
At the same time as weaning, we treated the ewes with a fly preventive, their first since being shorn. This should see them through to the end of September and into the fly season. Hopefully I’ll soon have our combining finished as well as having made our forage supplies for both ourselves and customers for the year.
It was brilliant to get away for a few days and meet up with the rest of the NSA Next Generation Ambassadors for a much needed catch up and some more thought provoking delivery sessions. This year as a group we were also able to a help out at the NSA Sheep Event and attend the pre-event dinner the evening before, which were both fantastic experiences. Credit must go to everyone at the NSA for organising such a fantastic exposure of everything that’s good about the UKs sheep industry, well done all!
Phew harvest is all but finished. After a testing summer, it’s a massive relief to see most of the crops now stored around the yard as opposed to standing in the field. We were slightly disappointed with our barley yield this year in comparison to previous years, but after speaking to other farmers about their crops and taking into consideration that we are a hill farm we don’t feel quite as disappointed.
Only this last week we have managed to get our replacement ewe lambs shorn, as with harvest and everything else they were put at the back of the to do list. I knew that it wasn’t going to be detrimental leaving them until now as I will not be selling them finished. Since turning the ram lambs onto the straight red clover lay this month, we have noticed a difference in the rate they’ve been finishing at and in turn this has meant that we have been able to sell a few loads of lambs to Dunbia via the Wales YFC finishing scheme.
This month always means gearing up for the start of the sheep farming cycle again. The first thing we made sure we did was MOT our rams to see what working condition they are in and to decide what replacements are needed. As I am writing this blog I’ve just returned from a shopping trip down West Wales where I purchased five new pedigree Lleyn rams ready for the tupping season.
Where are the months going, this year is flying by! We are now into October, with the days getting shorter and the temperature dramatically dropping winter is most certainly on the horizon.
This time of year is always a pretty hectic at home on the farm, with several different things going on. Firstly we have brought our largest bunch of suckler cattle into the sheds, ready to wean the calves. They were most certainly grateful for this as the grass here in the South Wales Valleys was starting to get a bit scarce! With teeming sheds full of hungry cattle, our workload has dramatically increased overnight and one man now spends half a day solely on feeding and bedding these needy bovines.
On the sheep front, this month we have been busy categorising ewes into specific bunches ready for tupping. We primarily bunch our ewes on breed characteristics and age which then determines what ram we will use on them. Another task has been to choose 250 of our best ewe lambs to put to the tup. Usually we would sell a proportion of these, but as we are gradually increasing our flock size in correlation to reducing our cattle herd we have decided to put a larger number of them to the tup this year. I am not a fan of buying in breeding ewes, I would rather keep a closed flock by retaining the best of our own, that way I know their health history. Two weeks prior to putting the tups in we turn out our teasers to encourage ovulation, with the goal of getting a tighter lambing pattern which we apply at a ratio of 1/100 .
As this years chairman of Bridgend Young Farmers Club, I have agreed to host the County Stock Judging Competition here at home at Cwm Risca where competitors will be judging lambs, beef and pigs. It’s going to be a busy day but we are all looking forward to it - good luck Bridgend YFC!
The last few weeks has seen all hands-on deck with getting fencing done on the farm, as we have a lot of obligations to hit as part of Glastir. We’ve had a few hectic days on the cattle front this month too, which has seen us finish weaning.
Onto the sheep, and with the tups all out enjoying themselves with the ladies there hasn’t been much to do with the ewes other then routine checks. The grass has slowed down though so I have taken molasses licks out to them as an extra source of energy and to keep the ewes in good order whilst with the tups. I’ve drawn out a few loads of finished lambs which I sent to Dunbia via the Wales YFC scheme and was happy with gradings I received for the last load I sent, even better is that the price has slightly risen this last few weeks too.
As we met up for our final few days as an NSA Next Generation Ambassador group in Stratford-upon-Avon this month. we had another great and insightful few days together. I would highly recommend anyone being a part of this programme. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time, gaining valuable knowledge but also making lifelong friends. This month has also seen us host a very successful Glamorgan YFC county stock judging day at home, where our club Bridgend YFC went and won the overall shield for the day, leaving me as one very proud chairman.