Farming Connect Study Visit - Wales YFC
The following report has been written by the farmers and forester who took part in the visits. All views and opinions included are their own.
27 - 31 October 2017
The purpose of this trip was to give Wales YFC members the opportunity to see how other farms in Britain operate. With Brexit arrangements on the horizon, ensuring a successful farming system is vital in order to be able to compete within the industry. One of the trip’s main aims was to visit a similar country to Wales so that the members could be inspired to develop their businesses at home.
Over the years, whether in the Rural Affairs Conference or general YFC meetings, a number of well-known names from Scotland have been mentioned due to their success in agriculture and this will be a great opportunity to see exactly how these businesses have developed with market requirements.
Considering all of the above factors, Scotland was an obvious choice as it is a suitable location for the visit’s aims and objectives.
On the Friday morning all members travelled to Birmingham airport where they caught a plane to Inverness. After arriving, we undertook out first farm visit to Fearn Farm, Tain, owned by John and Sarah Scott. The family have been farming at Fearn Farm, a lowland farm in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, for four generations. After arriving at the farm, we had a chance to taste some of the farm’s excellent produce followed by a farm walk. Members had a very detailed insight into John’s enterprise, which included 4,200 pedigree and commercial sheep, 50 Shorthorn beef cattle, 60 commercial crossbred cattle as well as arable systems, all operating on approximately 4,000 acres. Members were inspired by the farm’s success and development over the years and they will certainly implement some of John’s advice to their own enterprises back in Wales.
The following day we stopped by the Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlockery during our journey from Inverness to Edinburgh. We undertook a tour of the distillery where we saw the key steps taken to create the unique taste of Blair Athol’s Single Malt Whisky. Later that afternoon the group had the chance to visit Stirling Livestock Market, one of United Auctions’ most leading markets in Scotland. Members had a chance to see the pedigree and commercial cattle of standard present that day, including the native Luing cattle breed.
On Sunday we visited Langhill Farm run by Edinburgh University. The farm had made it to the final rounds of the AgriScot Dairy Farm of the Year competition in 2016. The group had a chance to see the excellent production system adopted on the farm as well as the on-farm education facilities. Members benefited greatly from this visit and they believe that they will be able to adopt some of the techniques used at Langhill on their farms at home. During the second half of the day, we visited Glenarth Farm and members had a very interested farm tour led by John Campbell. Today, the farm is recognised as one of the UK’s leading egg producers, producing over a million eggs a day. As well as the poultry enterprise, they also kept 10,000 breeding ewes and 500 Limousin and Charlois suckler cows. The farm tour was an eye-opening experience for the members as they saw a successful large-scale enterprise that was once a small family farm.
On the last day we visited Sion Williams at Bowhill Estate. Sion, a former member of Montgomeryshire YFC, moved to Scotland to manage the estate back in 2004. Sion currently manages 8,800 acres of agricultural land with 150 pure Aberdeen Angus cattle, 200 suckler cows and store calves as well as a mountain flock consisting of 2,700 Scottish Blackface sheep and 1,300 other crossbred sheep. The farm has also diversified by building a 32,000-hen unit as they wanted to be more self-sufficient and not be entirely dependent on agricultural subsidies. The farm also grows over 200 acres of arable in order to reduce feeding costs, use renewable wind energy and have developed an anaerobic digestor facility on the farm. Members were greatly inspired by his successful management of the hill farm.
3) Next Steps
This was the first such trip organised by Wales YFC and it was certainly a success. Members were inspired and the visit has strengthened their desire to implement changes to their businesses at home. Members also enjoyed hearing the farms’ stories, especially hearing how they were once small business like their own that have now developed to be some of Scotland’s most well-known farms.
Following the success of this trip, the YFC Wales Rural and International Affairs Committee will certainly consider organising a similar trip next year.