Has spring sprung at last?

by Angharad Evans, Welsh Language Communications Officer

As I set about writing this month's Cornel Clecs, the sun is beaming through the window and its warmth is very much welcomed. 

The lambing season continues for many, with some choosing to lamb later in the season to take advantage of better weather and more pasture growth, but that has not happened this year. But, there are signs that we are starting to move out of the clutches of winter, the trees are starting to bud, the cuckoo has been heard for the first time in the area, and the swallow is sure to be seen somewhere by now too - I wonder if you've seen these signs yet?

But the winter of 2023/24 will surely be remembered for a long time - for the wrong reasons. Many of us wondered at one point when the rain would stop and give our land a much needed chance to dry out, giving hope for fresh spring pasture to start growing. Apart from a one week heatwave at the beginning of September last year, the rain has been non-stop since July last year – a heartbreaking fact and makes farming extremely challenging. We had a bit of a shock here at the end of March when we woke up to a thick blanket of snow! From one weather extreme to another!

According to Met Office statistics, last winter was generally milder than average, and the names Elin, Fergus and Gerrit became familiar to us in December, Henk, Isha and Jocelyn in January and Kathleen at the beginning of April 2024 as fierce storms hit Wales causing damage all over the country.

The winter of 2023/2024 has been confirmed as the eighth wettest winter on record, causing widespread flooding across the country, including farmland, with wheat, barley and vegetable farmers suffering losses due to the severe wet weather.

Of course, not only did the wet weather cause problems right at the start of winter, but the whole winter was one challenge after another. It hasn’t been possible to cultivate the land in order to sow the seasonal crops.

The lambing season was more frustrating than usual, due to the weather and the condition of the land affecting the condition of the sheep. Lamb losses were inevitable, and feeding the ewes and lambs outside was a problem due to the condition of the land and ultimately proved costly. The same problems apply to those farmers who are currently in the middle of their calving season.

Animal health issues have added to the challenges as orf, joint ill, twin lamb disease and pneumonia have become more of a problem. Farmers, working closely with their vets identify and treat these conditions in order to ensure the health and well-being of their flocks.

It is not an easy task to turn animals out to grass in the middle of a wet period, and as a result farmers have had to rely entirely on feed and straw. Of course this puts financial pressure on farmers who have to spend more money on food and straw this year. There is also pressure on those who transport straw to farms as there is ultimately a lack of straw with those who supply it.

The relentless rainfall has also placed increasing pressure on slurry stores and adds to the current challenges imposed by the Government. 

May is nearly here, the days are longer, and hopefully the weather will settle giving us drier and warmer weather, but winter will remain in the memory for some time for all of us.



Making sure that milk stands are remembered

by Angharad Evans, Welsh Language Communications Officer

I want to take you back to April 2017 for the topic of this month's Cornel Clecs.  I traced a bit of the history of the milk stands, and this month there’s an appeal for help to record the history of milk stands in Carmarthenshire.

Anthony Rees is making the appeal, and here he is to say a little more about what he's looking for: “In collaboration with Carmarthenshire Young Farmers’ Clubs, we are photographing and mapping all surviving milk stands in the county before it’s too late,” explains Anthony.

“This project will run through the spring of 2024.  Whilst the Young Farmers are mapping and photographing surviving milk stands, I would love your help in one or more of the following ways:

  • Have a rummage in those dusty photo albums to see if you have any long-forgotten photos of milk stands. Photos of stands being used with churns or lorries would be fantastic, but even if a milk stand is just lurking in the background, we would love to add them to the national collection. Similarly, if you have any old film footage, that would be a very rare and important artefact!  Carmarthen School of Art have kindly offered to help with the photography part of the project.
  • We would love to hear your stories - farmers, lorry drivers, or dairy workers who could contribute to our understanding of the tapestry of Carmarthenshire’s milk stand culture.  Maybe you, or your friends or family were/are dairy farmers in Carmarthenshire and remember the milk stands being used. Or maybe you know someone who used to work for the Milk Marketing Board, driving the lorries and collecting the milk churns.  Please encourage them to speak with me so that they can share their anecdotes that deserve a spotlight!  Everyone we speak to about the milk stands has stories and anecdotes about them, we would love to hear yours.
  • If you have any milk stand or Milk Marketing Board related documents, letters, statements, milk churn labels, they would all be gratefully received into the collection.  Carmarthenshire Archives have been fantastic and have unearthed a long-forgotten register of milk stand easements, which logs the annual payments some farmers made to the Council to have a stand on the main roads. Without this project, this register would have remained undiscovered.

“No other county in Wales has gone about capturing their history, this is an invaluable project that will help preserve a crucial part of our heritage in rural Carmarthenshire for future generations, who may well wonder what those piles of stones on the roadside were used for!

“Until the late 1970s, lorries from the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) went about collecting filled milk churns from stands every morning, which were usually situated at the end of farm lanes. In 1974, there were around 1,700 dairy farms in Carmarthenshire, with most, we can assume, using milk stands. Today, there are less than 500 dairy farms in the county.

“However, since the introduction of bulk milk collections, these stands have lain idle and many of them have been removed. Those that remain are often unloved, decaying and overgrown, at the very end of farm lanes. However, they are reminders of a rich agricultural past, and surely worth recording before it’s too late.

“By photographing and documenting the history of these stands we will ensure that future generations connect with their very own heritage, and appreciate the evolution of the dairy industry in Carmarthenshire, and indeed our shared agricultural society.”

What a great opportunity to be part of history and ensure that the tradition of the milk stands is remembered and preserved forever. There are a number of ways you can contribute:

  • Email Anthony at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your stories and photos.
  • Phone Anthony on 07802 435677 if you’d like more information or to share a story.
  • Drop off photos and materials with members of your local Young Farmers’ Club or the Carmarthenshire Young Farmers’ Office in Carmarthen, or message Anthony who is very happy to collect.
  • Tag #milkstandssirgar on social media 



Sharing farm safety messages with school children across Wales

The Wales Farm Safety Partnership are heading up a rural school’s campaign that highlights the importance of keeping safe on farm. The Welsh Whisperer, a popular Welsh singer/songwriter visited 15 schools across Wales, along the way singing songs and reading the book ‘Nice one Bob’.

‘Nice one Bob’ was commissioned by the partnership in 2023 and shows various farming situations and highlights the dangers and proves how important it is that children keep safe on farm. Bob saves the day, every time!

As well as the school visits by the Welsh Whisperer there are other resources available such as an animated video, workbooks, and farm safety signs.

You can download a copy of the book and see all available resources on the Farming Connect Website. Search for Wales Farm Safety.

The Wales Farm Safety Partnership (WFSP) is a collaboration between all the key organisations representing agriculture and allied industries in Wales. The partner organisations are committed to working together for a safer farming industry in Wales by aspiring to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries caused to farmers, their families, farm employees and others who come into contact with farm activities.

 

 

Gareth and the world of rallying

by Angharad Evans, Welsh Language Communications Officer

As the summer turned into autumn, one of the largest international motorsport events was held in Ceredigion.

During the first weekend of September, Rali Ceredigion was held where 130 cars competed along the closed roads of Ceredigion stretching over 105 miles. But did you know that there is a connection between this event and the Union? Let’s find out more from one of the staff at the Union’s Head Office in Aberystwyth:

“Most members know me as Gareth Parry, FUW Senior Policy and Communications Officer, however, some of you will also know that I enjoy rallying in my spare time…

Remembering the pioneering character Ionwen Lewis

by Lewis Gruffudd

On 8 August, we were saddened to hear that Ionwen Lewis had passed away.  She lived at Werville Grange Farm, Pentre Gat, Llandysul, Ceredigion. She was Chairman of the Ceredigion Branch of the Farmers’ Union of Wales in 2005/2006 and Ceredigion's representative on the Union's Tourism and Diversification Committee for a number of years. She was an innovative character and as far as we know, the first woman to be Branch Chair.

Gwynfaes Seren Wledig is the star of the show!

by Angharad Evans, Welsh Language Communications Officer

It's been a month since we enjoyed the Royal Welsh Show and I'm sure we all have our memories, but for one Welsh cob breeder and an FUW member from Carmarthenshire, Royal Welsh Show 2023 will be a very memorable one.

Meirion Evans from Cynwyl Elfed won the Welsh Cob Stallions Main Championship with Gwynfaes Seren Wledig. Cornel Clecs had the opportunity to chat with Meirion recently, and to ask exactly what it was like to win such a prestigious title.

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