AS the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s flagship accolade, the Sir Bryner Jones Memorial Award is highly coveted every year.

The winner of this year’s award has been kept under wraps until today, (Monday 23 July), the first day of the Royal Welsh Show, creating a sense of excitement and anticipation that befits such a prestigious award.

Since 1957 the award has been made annually to someone from a different area of the farming industry who has reached the highest level of achievement in the chosen sector. This year the judges were looking for the most effective and efficient sheep farming enterprise in Wales.

With all three shortlisted finalists, and their families eagerly awaiting to hear who had won, the society’s Chair of Council, Mr David Lewis announced that the winner of the 2018 Sir Bryner Jones Award is Mr Michael James & Mrs Ella James of Neuadd Blaenduhonw, Maesmynis, Builth Wells, Powys.

Neuadd Blaenduhonw is a 211 acre severely disadvantaged farm, with mountain rights on the adjoining Mynydd Epynt. As the name suggests, it’s at the “Blaen” (Head) of the Duhonw valley in Maesmynis, Builth Wells. The farm ranges from 300m to 430m contours, with many undulating and sloping fields, a farm that can be described as very “challenging”.

Michael and Ella took over the farm from Michael’s parents nearly ten years ago, where a very efficient well farmed unit has developed. Present stocking consists of a total of 700 ewes, including an elite flock of 24 registered Bluefaced Leicester ewes, 50 Pedigree Texel ewes, both for the production and sale of high quality breeding rams, which are sold at society sales throughout the UK.

The more commercial sheep enterprise consists of 450 Beulah Speckle faced ewes producing top quality Mule ewe lambs, for sale and retention as breeding females for the 200 Mule flock lambing at 200%, which when crossed with home bred Texel rams produce finished lambs sold in the early market.

The judges were most impressed with Michael and Ella’s ability to produce outstanding animals, for which has been the greatest demand, resulting in top awards and sale prices in the sale ring at the relevant breed shows and sales. These achievements were considered as being truly outstanding. Their attention to detail not only in their flock management, shepherding skills, and also in their general farm management skills greatly impressed the judges.

The management of the grassland on the whole farm was very impressive, bearing in mind the topography and height above sea level of the farm. The major reliance at Neuadd Blaenduhonw on good well managed grass to achieve high levels of livestock output was to be highly commended.

Modern technology is being used in the management of the flock. Full use is being made of EID tagging, and also use Facebook to promote sales. Knowing cost of production and calculating of margins, is a very important part of their management, to maintain an efficient profitable system.

All groups of sheep are performance recorded and critical decisions on selection are made with the aid of these results, together with the all-important visual appraisal of the animal for its selection for further breeding. Even though Michael and Ella are achieving great success, they are always thinking of future developments and improvement of their flock.

Michael takes an active role beyond the farm gate. He is a member of the Bluefaced Leicester National Breed Council, a member of the Breed Development Committee, and past Chairman of Wales Council.

Sir Bryner Jones helped shape the direction of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society for 50 years. He was head of the Department of Agriculture and Aberystwyth College in 1907 and went on to be one of the leading agricultural education figures in Wales. He was a person of influence in Welsh Agriculture, becoming both Commissioner and Chair of the Agricultural Council for Wales and subsequently became Welsh Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Sir Bryner Jones, who received a Knighthood in 1947, was the Royal Welsh Honorary Show Director from 1908 – 10 and was the society’s Chairman of Council from 1944 – 53. He became the society’s President in 1954, in the society’s 50th year and tragically died in the December of this year.

The first Sir Bryner Jones award was presented in 1957 by his daughter and has been made annually to someone from a different branch of the farming industry who has reached the highest level of achievement in the chosen sector.

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