SHEEP farmers John and Sarah Yeomans who farm at Llwyn y Brain Farm near Newtown are the Farmers Weekly Awards 2018 Sheep Farmers of the Year; vet Oliver Hodgkinson, a partner with Trefaldwyn Vets in Montgomery was awarded the Farm Adviser of the Year, and the youngest award winner was 25-year-old Jacob Anthony of Cwm Risca Farm, Bridgend who was awarded the accolade of Young Farmer of the Year.

Eirwen Williams, director of rural programmes with Menter a Busnes, which delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government, was one of the first to offer her warmest congratulations.

“We’re so proud to know that each of these category winners has close, long-standing links with Farming Connect.

“This means that not only are they each performing at the very highest levels within their own businesses and areas of work, but they are also bringing that expertise and knowledge to the wider industry in Wales through their association with Farming Connect.”

The awards judges said John and Sarah are testament to what can be achieved on a mixed Welsh hill farm, saying that the couple are intent on overcoming the challenging times faced by all farmers by making their business more resilient.

Alongside their determination to pull through, the judges also commented on their outstanding commitment and dedication to supporting both their local farming community and Welsh agriculture in general.

John has undertaken a Nuffield scholarship championing the need for alternative lamb and beef grading methods and is an approved Farming Connect mentor, which means he provides fully-funded on-farm guidance to other farmers.

He also recently travelled to Ireland and Finland through Farming Connect’s Management Exchange programme on a fact-finding visit which saw him examining ways in which farmers can improve grass use within shorter growing periods. He and Sarah also operate a focus site within Farming Connect’s demonstration network. Sarah, who was formerly Farming Connect’s regional manager in mid Wales, whilst playing a pivotal role in their business, also runs a local farming discussion and training group.

Farm vet Oliver (Oli) Hodgkinson is the Farmers Weekly 2018 Farm Adviser of the Year. Since joining independent veterinary practice Trefaldwyn Vets in 2009 as a partner, Oliver has made it his primary objective to move from firefighting problems with medication to proactive health planning for his client base of 200 beef, sheep and dairy farms. And he seems to be winning the battle, as his award-winning clients John and Sarah Yeomans can testify!

Oliver has a close working relationship with Farming Connect, delivering animal health related events and projects and was also previously a representative on the North Wales Veterinary Steering Group. He juggles hands-on time at his own farm with running a busy mixed veterinary practice. He is involved with Gwaredu BVD (BVD eradication programme in Wales) and a past board member of the Red Tractor Dairy sector, the British Cattle Veterinary Association and BVD Free England.

The judges said that good farm advisers are seen by their clients as a necessary cost, solving issues as and when problems crop up, saying that the best advisers make the leap from being a cost to a key driver of profit for the businesses they advise, using their vast knowledge base to identify areas to trim costs, increase health and fully use available schemes and grants.

“The standout ones are not satisfied with just assisting their own clients, they want to see the agriculture industry as a whole become more profitable, safe, and in Oliver’s case, have higher standards of welfare.”

Fifth-generation farmer Jacob Anthony who farms on the family farm at Cwm Risca in Tondu, near Bridgend, is the 2018 Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year.

Jacob has successfully navigated the tricky path of working on the family farm by being brave enough to make changes while employing a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. After completing a three-year agriculture diploma at Hartpury College, he decided to return to Cwm Risca, foregoing the almost inevitable Antipodean venture, and was given sole responsibility for the sheep enterprise.

Passionate about progress and leaving the farm better than when he found it, Jacob has taken every opportunity to improve his knowledge, update his management systems and stabilise his cashflow. He credits some of his confidence and ambition to his experience as a graduate of Farming Connect’s flagship personal development programme, the Agri Academy in 2014 and is also a member of a Farming Connect sheep discussion group.

Jacob runs 1,000 Lleyn cross Texel breeding ewes and 300 head of cattle, including 110 Welsh Black cross Limousin/Charolais suckler cows, and 10 pedigree Welsh Blacks. Since returning to the family farm, he has made a number of changes to improve efficiency and cut input costs, including moving lambing from February to March/April, removing concentrates from the flock’s diet and decreasing the weaning age to 12 weeks. He also used a Welsh Government grant to buy a sheep-handling system, which has helped make flock management easier. By regularly testing blood and manure samples, keeping track of daily liveweight gains and regularly consulting professionals, Jacob is able to treat his sheep for specific complaints, avoid a resistance build-up to drugs and improve his flock’s health. In a glowing citation, one of the independent awards judges said,

“Jacob has initiated and sought out opportunities for training and development in both technical and personal skills, employing them on the home farm to excellent effect. Jacob’s passion for getting involved in farming politics is outstanding – one to watch out for.”

For detailed information on all this year’s Farmers Weekly category award winners, including those mentioned above, visit www.fwi.co.uk/events/awards

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