It’s all about better genetics and management, Phill explains. “We’re having a big focus on improving the unit’s efficiency and are already making some significant incremental gains from relatively small changes. For example, introducing the Aberfield is helping us achieve a 20% improved margin on ewe lamb sales, whilst the wethers are leaving up to 50% more margin.
“Initially we agreed to breed a stronger ewe, one with a slightly bigger frame, more length and better on the shoulder whilst retaining strong motherability. We considered the Aberfield to do the job, introduced him to 400 draft ewes and he’s doing the business.
“One Aberfield ram has the power to cover up to 120 ewes, the majority lamb within the first three weeks, the lambs pop out unassisted, show real vigour and are up sucking immediately – just brilliant. We plan to annually retain a portion of the Aberfield cross ewe lambs as replacements, however they’re in demand from other farmers and we have the option to sell. Last year we traded some for a 20% premium over the purebreds.
“The Aberfield cross wether lambs are finishing to target weight at an average 22 weeks, that’s three months earlier than the purebreds, so I’ve got more grass, fewer inputs, less risk and better cash flow.”
Phill, a first-generation farmer demonstrates an unbridled passion for sheep complemented with a business mindset. School holidays and weekends were spent working on a family friend’s farm, followed by Llysfasi Agriculture College and a spell in New Zealand before being appointed to manage Cefngwyrgrug for Ieuan Hughes.
Farming is a continual learning process, he says. “For example, whilst this unit is already very low input, I’ve found autumn mob grazing makes better use of forage, an annual reseeding policy is helping minimize the feed bill and we’re investing in some new kit – handling facilities, weigh cells and accompanying technology to help us measure and monitor and ultimately make better flock management decisions.”
He adds: “With increasing uncertainty over the Brexit negotiations, it’s going to be a rocky road going forward, however we farmers will find a way to successfully come through. For me it’s all about listening, learning, keeping the options open and remaining positive. By introducing the Aberfield and various new management practices, I’ve made a head start.”