29 November 2019
Collaboration is allowing three west Wales-based Beef Shorthorn breeders to add value to their cattle by selling meat directly to customers.
Hywel and Emma Evans, who run the Derw herd at Wernynad, near Cardigan, have joined forces with fellow Beef Shorthorn breeders, Brian and Eiryth Thomas and Alma James and Anthony James, to form Welsh Shorthorn Beef, a business selling beef in boxes.
They came together as members of a Farming Connect Agrisgôp Group run by facilitator Lilwen Joynson.
The farmers had all shared an interest in adding value to the meat produced by their pedigree Beef Shorthorns – a breed known for the marbling and tenderness of its meat.
Agrisgôp, a fully funded management development programme provided by Farming Connect to bring together individuals and families to discuss and progress business ideas, offered a platform for them to explore different options.
With support from Lilwen, the Beef Shorthorn Group undertook action learning to develop ideas, personal confidence and communication, visited meat packers and attended meetings with speakers on topics relevant to their plans including experts in marketing and branding and the logistics of producing and distributing beef boxes. The initiative also allowed them to develop their skills in collaboration and working together.
The formation of Welsh Shorthorn Beef is allowing them to secure a bigger share of the market value of their finished cattle.
As individuals, they wouldn’t have had a sufficient supply of cattle to satisfy the needs of a boxed scheme, but as a group, that demand can be met.
“As a group, we are currently supplying at least two beasts into the boxed beef business a month,’’ says Hywel, who had run his own joinery business before retiring to the 34-acre farm at Penparc.
Brian and Eiryth run the Frenni herd at Llanfyrnach while Alma and Anthony’s Lamboro herd is based at Clarbeston Road.
The Group’s market research, led by Hywel and Emma’s daughter, Rebecca Andrew, who is the Group’s secretary and administrator, pointed to a demand for high quality boxed beef.
“We wanted to concentrate on the taste and quality of the meat, to get away from the concept of beef as a commodity product,’’ Hywel explains.
All three farmers use a traditional approach to producing beef – their cattle are grass-fed and they aren’t intensively finished.
“We did some market research and the quality of beef was very high on people’s agenda,’’ says Emma.
The beef is sold in two quantities – 10kg and 8kg boxes.
The cattle are slaughtered at either Tregaron or Cross Hands abattoirs and hung for 21 days and butchered by Martin Lloyd at Fishguard.
The farmers say Agrisgôp pushed them forward with their plans.
“Without Lilwen, the group would have stalled a long time ago; farmers are farmers, and without someone to lead on this, it would have been a job to move things forward,’’ Hywel admits.
He encouraged others to access Farming Connect support.
“Farming Connect is like a supermarket. You don’t go to the supermarket to buy everything; you select what you want, and the same is true of Farming Connect. There is a lot available and you can select what is most relevant to you.’’
Adding value to their produce can allow all farmers to be more resilient, he believes.
“We have to start standing on our own two feet by selling what we have direct to the public.’’
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Welsh Government.