9 December 2022
“However confident you are in your own ability, there are sometimes better or different ways of doing things.”
These are the words of William Williams, who keeps around 500 easy-care ewes at the 200-acre farm near Bangor which has been tenanted by his family for many generations. William turned
to Farming Connect’s mentoring programme two years ago, when he realised his traditional system of ‘set stocking’ was no longer the most efficient or profitable way of running the farm. He selected well-known Mid Wales beef and sheep farmer Keith Williams as his mentor. A Nuffield scholar and former Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year, Keith’s mentoring has helped William transform his farm business.
MENTORING – HOW IT WORKS
William and Keith Williams visited each other’s farms – and when the pandemic restricted face-to-face meetings, continued their dialogue online and over the phone.
William sought mentoring from Keith on:
- Managing grassland and measuring grass
- Improving performance of the flock, which was previously managed on a set stocking system, and not reaching peak performance levels
- Reducing fertiliser costs
Keith’s mentoring recommendations included:
- Giving the land a long rest in the winter, which minimised poaching by bringing all the flock indoors
- Investing in electric fencing and planning the division of cells for intensive rotational grazing
- Advising on land parcels to ensure even grazing patterns
- Targeted application of fertiliser to reduce application time and costs
The outcomes for William:
“We are sub-dividing the land, based on Keith’s suggestions, so that the land parcel shapes ensure even grazing patterns, and we have avoided making costly mistakes.
“The cell system has resulted in huge savings on fertiliser costs – we now apply around half what we did before.
“By the time the ewes were ready to lamb outdoors in April, the grass was in great condition.
“I found it hugely beneficial to talk directly to an experienced sheep farmer who has made the most of his own land by implementing a similar intensive rotational grazing system.
“Having Keith as a mentor has shown how we can always learn more, no matter how sure we are of our own abilities.
A final word from Keith:
“Although William has used up his mentoring hours, he’s now got his blueprint for the future.
“I really enjoy being a mentor, and William knows I’m always on the end of a phone, happy to support him any time he might need my advice.”
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
There are now more than 100 Farming Connect mentors available, located throughout Wales. They offer an extensive range of sectors and specialisms; these include ICT support (which can range from assisting farmers wanting to tackle ‘making tax digital’, online record-keeping and form-filling to business and financial management), social media and marketing.
Topics such as food processing and butchery, sheepdog handling, shearing, regenerative farming, soil biology and interior design for new diversified tourism projects are just a few of the less ‘typical’ mentoring areas available, alongside topics on animal health, soil, grassland and woodland management.
The service provides up to 15 hours of fully funded one-to-one support, which is available to all individuals registered with Farming Connect. To view the online mentor directory and apply, click here.