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Farming

Pembrokeshire mutton on top of TV chefs’ menu

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Mutton with menaces: Robert Vaughan (centre front) with Jamie (right) & Jimmy (left) with half-naked Pembrokeshire councillor Sam Kurtz, a worried sheep, and several other unclothed young farmers

GWAUN VALLEY beef and sheep farmer, Robert Vaughan, has put mutton on top of famous TV chef Jamie Oliver’s menu, which features in the current Channel 4 TV series ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’.

Pembrokeshire hill farmer Robert, who is a member of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, was keen to highlight how versatile and delicious mutton can be and was delighted to show Jamie and Jimmy round the farm.

“Out of the blue one evening I had a phone call from the Jamie Oliver production team to have a chat about my farm and mutton for the new series, with the outlook of possibly coming to see the farm for themselves. I didn’t want to get my hopes up of course. We have done a few TV shows before but it’s a bit like a job interview, you never know 100% if you’re going to be successful. They kept bouncing questions across for few weeks and then all of a sudden we had a confirmed date.

“It was all getting rather exciting but nerve racking also at that point. But I just gave them my story, not pretending to be something I’m not, and showed them round, explained how we farm and for how long we’ve been here. And they decided to run with it.”

Carn Edward meats is part of the north Pembrokeshire family hill farm and comprises of 3 livestock farms working as one under the gaze of Carn Edward mountain, which unites the holdings of Llannerch, Penrhiw and the renowned Penlan Uchaf gardens & tea rooms.

It is managed and farmed by brothers Robert and Richard under the careful eye and guidance of their parents Dilwyn and Suzanne Vaughan.

Llannerch farm is situated on the floor of the Gwaun Valley at its highest point on what was once one of the busiest drovers’ routes and pilgrims way out of north Pembrokeshire. Once home to and farmed by Robert’s and Richard’s grandparents this is where their father Dilwyn was born. Over the years he helped run the milking cows and sheep alongside purchasing the neighbouring un-farmed and neglected Penlan Uchaf.

Many years were spent clearing pasture land of gorse, blackthorns and weeds with the unreserved help of his parents at Llannerch, revealing what is now a vibrant livestock hill farm – built on blood, sweat and tears.

“Before the filming actually started I sent them a few products up to taste in London. I sent them my mutton, and they got back to me and said that Jamie Oliver was impressed by it and came back with all these wonderful ideas of what to do with it. And by the start of May we were filming. Originally the plan was for them to come out and do a taste test of flash frying a loin of lamb and a loin of mutton, and giving it to a couple of people to see what they think. Job done and off they went, but because they were so impressed with the mutton story they came for the full day cooking different things.

“I’m used to mutton but of course if you have never tried it before it is something quite special. It’s really good mood food and Jamie and Jimmy were busy cooking fried loins, pasta dishes with minced mutton, kofta balls and mutton lollipops. It really is worth trying and I can only describe it as quick young people food – and these are really the people we want to target. What is so lovely with Jamie and Jimmy is that they champion the people who produce the food and also the people who consume the food. They’re very down to earth and it was an absolute pleasure and heartwarming experience having them here,” said Robert Vaughan.

Back in the early 1980s, when Robert and Richard were children, farming hit a low point; returns were poor and interest rates high. To help survive and pay the bills farmers were encouraged to diversify. This led Dilwyn to be inspired by his love of gardening, learnt from his mother, to begin to create what is today Penlan Uchaf gardens.

The third farm Penrhiw, which adjoins Llannerch and encompasses the other half of Carn Edward mountain, came up for sale in Robert and Richards’ final year of college and was purchased that year.

So the boys, both equipped with over a 500 year Vaughan family history in the Gwaun Valley, the educational knowledge and inspiration and drive gained from their parents and grandparents and a love for their ‘Cenefyn’ (homeland where born) the story of Carn Edward farms was born.

Today the farm runs as a typical livestock hill farm, with a closed flock comprising of 750 pedigree Lleyn breeding ewes and a native herd of 200 pedigree Longhorn cattle, with all calving and lambing taking place in the spring and all animals pasture grazed. In the harsh depths of winter they are housed and fed on grass silage round bales made in early summer.

In 2001 the farm established their Longhorn cattle herd, a low input pasture based native breed, ideally suited to the extreme weather conditions facing a north Pembrokeshire farm.

Farmers markets and food festivals, along with the gardens and tea rooms offered the opportunity to capitalise on the Carn Edward meat sales growth we all know of today.

“I’ve had to learn how to get the best of the mutton carcasses – you don’t want a big layer of fat on it today because people won’t buy them. Traditionally they were processed fat, making them suitable for lengthy hanging bearing in mind we didn’t have the fridges we have today. So we process our mutton with their working coat on, which means they are leaner and higher in protein and we add value, producing what our customers want,” said Robert Vaughan.

Describing how mutton differs from lamb and why it is worth a try, Robert added: “The texture is different and there so much flavour- it’s almost like the dark meat on a chicken but there is more of it. The sheep had more time to graze and the meat becomes firmer, leaner. You can almost describe it like a good Christmas cake – it needs time and you can’t rush it.

“As an industry we’ve got so obsessed with the spring lamb story we have taken our eye off the ball. We need to keep the bigger picture in mind, as lamb consumption is falling and that’s a concern for us all. So the mutton story is a way of generating a new interest and it is a great way of championing our sheep farming industry.

“The opportunity to share my farming life with ‘Friday Night Feast’ and such great well known characters, was both humbling and a heart-warming experience. As farmers in this climate we need to engage more with our customer and go beyond the farm gate.

“If you’re interested in trying some of the mutton featured in the TV show, you can buy it from our website http://www.carnedward.co.uk/ and you can find me at Farmers Markets on a Monday at Newport (Pembrokeshire) from 9am – 1pm, Tuesday’s at St Dogmaels from 9am – 1pm, Saturday (1st & 3rd of the month) at Aberystwyth Farmers Market and on the last Saturday of the month at Uplands Market, Swansea,” added Robert

Farming

Last Golden Eagle of Wales found dead

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WALES will no longer see the golden eagle fly through the skies after the last of its kind was found dead by a walker in Abergwesyn Valley, near Llanwrtyd Wells.

The Golden Eagle was native to Wales, Europe and North America and due to human persecution had begun to die out, the last breeding pair being found in Snowdonia in 1850. It is one of the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, but unfortunately Wales will not see the bird in action for a very long time.

The female bird of prey was being watched and followed by the presenter of Spring Watch, Iolo Williams, and will appear in the last episode of the latest show ‘Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales.’

The company behind the television show which captures the highlights of Welsh wildlife, Aden Productions, commented on the extinction of the Golden Eagle. Taking to twitter, a statement read:
“Our whole crew was shocked and saddened to hear about the demise of our beloved Cambrians golden eagle, the last golden eagle to fly wild in Wales. We hope our final episode of Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales is a fitting tribute to her.”

It is still not known how the female bird died, leaving questions for bird lovers, but plans are being made by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales project to reintroduce the bird of prey back into Welsh wildlife is under way. However, it is explained that this is not a simple process. They will firstly need Natural Resource Wales to issue a license which does take time.

The Golden Eagle has not left the UK completely and can still be found in the far North of Scotland.

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Farming

Big Farmland Bird Count returns

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JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.

The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.

Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.

“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.

“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.

“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.

“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”

Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.

President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.

She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.

“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.

“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.

“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”

A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

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Farming

New Flock and Herd Health Officers

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has appointed two new Flock and Herd Health Officers to its ambitious five-year Red Meat Development Programme, designed to equip Wales’s lamb and beef industry for a changing future.

The posts are key to delivering the programme’s commitment to helping farmers achieve on-farm efficiency and drive best practice in proactive animal health planning.

The programme is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Lowri Reed hails from a farming background near Llanon in central Ceredigion, whereas Lowri Williams is from Llanfihangel y Creuddyn near Aberystwyth, and is a graduate in Animal Management and Welfare from Harper Adams University.

Dr Rebekah Stuart, the coordinator of the Flock and Herd Health Project at HCC, said: “We’re delighted to have recruited two officers with experience and knowledge of agriculture and flock management to this important strand of work.

“There are few things that can have as great an impact on the efficiency and bottom line of a livestock enterprise as a proactive and coordinated approach to animal health and eradicating disease.

“The project will help farmers to work with vets to put health plans in place and monitor their effectiveness. Since opening an initial expression of interest window late last year at the Winter Fair, we’re encouraged by how many farmers are keen to be involved. We look forward to working with them to put this exciting project into action.”

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