RHIAN PIERCE is knowledgeable, competent and a very capable beef and sheep farmer who farms alongside her father at Plas Dolben, Llangynhafal in Denbighshire.
As Mr Pierce reduces the time he spends on the farm and looks towards retirement, could you be the right person to farm alongside his daughter?
In the past, particularly during busy times, Rhian has relied on bringing in and training casual farm workers to help her and her father run Plas Dolben. Now, determined to maintain the high animal health and welfare and environmental standards which are part of her philosophy on running an efficient, sustainable and profitable farm business, she believes a share-farming arrangement will provide the perfect solution, both short and long term.
Rhian has approached Farming Connect’s highly successful Venture programme, which matches up landowners wanting to step down or exit the industry with young entrants keen to gain a foothold. If the right person – and Rhian is happy to train anyone who doesn’t already have sufficient hands-on farming experience – comes forward and an appropriate match is made, Venture will provide both parties with support, guidance and mentoring as well as financial and legal advice.
With a part-time conservation role away from the farm, Rhian hopes that her share-farming offer will appeal to someone wanting a part-time involvement in the first instance, with a view to a full time opportunity within five years.
“If the arrangement works out for both parties, I envisage a time over the next five years or so when I can step back from some of the more physically demanding farm tasks to pursue other interests, so in essence, I will then be the part-time farmer helping out as needed.
Plas Dolben is a partly upland 100 acre beef and sheep holding located on the spectacular Clwydian Hills, equidistant between Ruthin and Denbigh, which are both a 10 minute drive away. The Pierce family also have grazing rights to 200 acres of common land close by.
“I’m hoping that Venture will find me a like-minded, enthusiastic business partner who appreciates my commitment to sharing my knowledge of modern farming with the wider public, and especially schoolchildren,” says Rhian.
Rhian plans to continue to host Open Days and school visits at Plas Dolben, when visitors will be invited to see where their food comes from and learn at first-hand how beneficial it is to handle and work with farm livestock calmly and quietly, to protect biodiversity and to treat the environment with respect.
The farm is stocked with a herd of 60 British Blue cross cattle, bought in the autumn at around four to six weeks old, fattened and sold as stores at 20 months. There are also 350 Lleyn cross ewes, all finished on the farm and sold at local markets or as meat boxes directly to the public. There are also two Welsh cross ‘Large White’ sows which farrow twice a year.
“There is ample opportunity for a new share-farmer to increase stocking rates without impacting on our current low input – high output system of farming, with stock fed mainly on 50 acres of hay or silage we bring in ourselves,” says Rhian.
Regular soil sampling and the targeted use of lime and chicken muck spread over the patchwork of small fields, means that fields are rested regularly with top quality pasture making the farm almost self-sufficient with little need to buy in feed.
The farm has an extensive range of well-maintained machinery and handling equipment to farm efficiently and safely and there are sufficient outbuildings, handling pens and yards to cope with both current and projected stocking levels.
Rhian says it’s essential that the new share farmer must be kind and quiet when handling, rearing and shepherding livestock, setting a good example to visitors; able to drive and handle farm machinery efficiently and safely and committed to her ideals on both animal health and welfare and protecting the environment.
“Most importantly, I’m looking for someone enthusiastic and able, with a ‘can do’ open and honest attitude and a flexible approach to helping out at busy times such as lambing, harvesting and during farm visits.”
There is plenty of scope for a new share-farmer to introduce appropriate new systems or enterprises which could include increasing stocking levels, finding ways to utilise the empty cattle sheds in summer, and possibly developing a boxed meat enterprise marketed through social media.
“I would welcome the chance to provide a new entrant with the chance to not only help with the practical side of farm work at Plas Dolben, but to get involved in strategic decisions too.
“I’m more than willing to help the right individual acquire new skills and gain more experience, but I’ll also be delighted if they bring new ideas and suggestions of different or improved ways of working that may benefit the business longer-term,” says Rhian.
To express interest in this opportunity, download an application form from the Venture webpage at www.gov.wales/farmingconnect no later than 10am on Friday 10 February. Alternatively, call Gwydion Owen, North Wales Venture Officer on 07498 055 416 or email: [email protected]
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and financed by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.