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FARM LIFE: Gerald Lewis

Farm Life Gerald Lewis
This month we meet Gerald Lewis, a hill farmer in the Llangadog area of Carmarthenshire, who is also a well-known face in the world of sheepdog trials.

Y mis yma ry’n ni’n cwrdd â Gerald Lewis, sy’n ffermio yn y mynydd-dir yn ardal Llangadog, Sir Gâr ac sydd hefyd yn wyneb cyfarwydd ym myd treialon cŵn defaid.

Where and what do you farm?

We farm an upland farm in Gwynfe, near Llangadog, farming 800 breeding ewes and 20 store cattle.  We look across to the beautiful Black Mountain where we have hefted rights. We farm 400 acres, 270 owned, and 130 odd rented. 

My wife, Hazel, and I bought the farm in 1983, having moved down from the Builth Wells area.  I’d travelled the world shearing and then decided it was farming we wanted to do. We borrowed a lot of money to purchase the farm and fortunately enough things have gone our way. We own the farm outright now and have raised 3 daughters, and 6 grandchildren here – so I’d like to think things are pretty good!

We have a hefted flock on the Black Mountain – Welsh x Cheviot ewes – which do well on there.  We did take on a small flock when we took on the farm initially since you have to keep the same bloodlines because they are hefted.  We do now keep roughly half and half, so around 400 pure ewes and around 400 crossbred ewes – Mules and Texels.  We keep a closed flock, meaning we don’t buy any females in, we only buy rams in.   

We used to keep about 40 suckler cows and did try to produce show cattle, high bred cattle, Limousin cross Belgian Blues, but it’s quite stressful to go down that road and we had a lot of sleepless nights chasing wild cattle around, so we decided we’d do that no more.  What we do now is buy in dairy-bred calves and fatten them.  

Farm Life Gerald Lewis

Pictured above: Gerald and Hazel’s six grandchildren on the farm.

What are the main jobs at this time of year?

We’ve done quite a bit of silage this year, but we do have a bit more to do, a little bit more second cut.  This year has been very dry.  We usually drill up 10-15 acres of swedes, we then plough last year’s swede grounds and put them into seed, so into a bit of barley or whatever. The weather conditions earlier this year were very hot and dry, so we’ve struggled a little bit, but it’s coming on better now that we’ve had rain.  

We’re also busy weaning, sorting, and selling lambs. I also buy a few store lambs; people trust me with their money to buy lambs for them to fatten for the winter, so I buy a lot of fat lambs for a few individual companies as well.

Is there any item of machinery that has changed life on the farm?

We have changed our system round completely in recent years.  We used to do everything ourselves, mowing and baling and so on.  I prefer to bring in a contractor for this nowadays. I have a tedder and a rake, and he comes along with his mower and Fusion baler. I pick the bales up once he’s done and stack them. So, I’m down to one tractor – I try to keep one tractor which is reliable as I’m certainly not a mechanic – along with my bike and my truck, that’s basically all I own.  I do spread my own fertilizer and have a bobcat that cleans all the cattle and indoor sheep throughout the winter period. My machinery requirements are small, but I like decent machinery that will keep going!

What do you enjoy about farming life?  

I enjoy sheepdog trialling, and I train and sell dogs too.  I’ve been lucky enough to represent my country in sheepdog trialling on numerous occasions and have even been asked to judge all the major competitions within the sheepdog world! 

 Another thing I thoroughly enjoy is my work for Farming Connect as a mentor in the sheepdog world.  I teach people how to handle and train their dogs, and hopefully help them on their way with what they require their dog to do, be it general farming or if they aspire to come into the trialling world.  I can help with the initial selection of a pup, the training of a dog, or if someone has problems with a dog they already have, then hopefully I can help them find a solution to the problems that they’ve had.    

I’ve got a huge circle with a few very quiet sheep in for training, so they aren’t working a large piece of ground.  You need to sort Left, Right, Stop and some people have no idea how to stop the dog or put a left or right command on it, so I would teach them how to do that and hopefully solve their problem.   

My dogs work, not every day on the farm, but they’re out every day. While I’ve been lucky enough to represent my country in trials, which has been hugely rewarding – the biggest reward for me is that I can go to any field that I own or up to the mountain with 2 or 3 dogs and fetch sheep into the buildings or pens or move them from field to field and we don’t require any assistance, me and my dogs can do it on our own.**

What is the part you least enjoy about farming?

The bureaucratic rules that cause us so much grief!

**Additional fact – Gerald is one of the sheepdog handlers behind that viral Extreme Shepherding with LEDs video!  

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