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Utilising Farming Connect helps young farmer prepare for greater role on sheep farm



FARMING CONNET’S training and development opportunities have helped Ernie Richards learn about best practice in agriculture and the latest thinking on technical and business management ideas, giving the young farmer the confidence and knowledge to take on a bigger role in his employer’s upland sheep farming enterprise.

Ernie manages a flock of pedigree Lleyn ewes for Stuart and Helen Morris at 350-acre Wernoog, near Clyro, Powys.

His understanding of flock health and performance and the farm’s environmental obligations has been augmented by multiple Farming Connect accredited learning courses and wider activities, including discussion group membership.

Ernie claims that continuous professional development and learning to do everything well has benefitted both him and the Morris family.

As his knowledge and confidence have grown, the couple have been able to take a step back, moving off the farm to allow Ernie and his family to move into the farmhouse to put him at the centre of the day-to-day management of the enterprise.

As he steps up into that role, he will draw on the Farming Connect Leading and Managing training course he completed in 2023.

“We will have two students with us for up to six weeks during lambing and for the first time it will be me who will be responsible for managing them,’’ he explains.

“I learned so much on the Farming Connect Leading and Managing training course that will help with that.’’

The flock they will be lambing is a closed flock of 1,000 pedigree Lleyns.

Reliance on wormers in the high health status flock has been reduced thanks to faecal egg counting (FEC). To further his knowledge on this, Ernie has completed a Farming Connect Introduction to Worm Control and Faecal Egg Counting for Sheep Producers course.

“We know we have resistance to certain drenches, using FEC means we now only treat when the lambs need it,’’ he explains.

There is a strict culling policy for ewes that experience problems at lambing, those with poor udders or persistent lameness.

Maximising the value of those cull ewes is an important income stream for the business and this is again where Ernie’s utilisation of Farming Connect services has helped. The subject was a theme at one of the meetings for the Farming Connect discussion group he is a member of, covering topics such as selling at the right time.

Membership of that discussion group allows Ernie to share ideas, problems and solutions with other like-minded farmers, and benefit from the technical expertise of speakers such as Phillipa Page, of Flock Health Ltd.

“We are all focussed on the same sort of things, we are very open with each other and keep in touch between meetings via a Whatsapp group,’’ he explains.

“We now have some funding to look at iceberg diseases and to blood sample our flocks for those.’’

Similarly, Erine was fortunate to be selected for the Agri Academy in 2021 and will be reaping the benefits of the invaluable support network and friendships forged through the Academy for many years to come.

As the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations are rolled out across Wales, Ernie has also been making use of Farming Connect services to understand what that means for the business at Wernoog.

Last year he completed a training course on environmental awareness, audit and management of farm businesses.

“This focussed on the new rules and it helped me get my head around what we needed to do to be compliant with those,’’ says Ernie.

A record of the certificates he has gained and courses completed are all stored on Storfa Sgiliau, Farming Connect’s online data storage tool.

“Although I have paper copies of the certificates too, it is really useful to have everything stored online and in one easily accessible place, through my BOSS (Business Online Support Service) account,’’ says Ernie. You can also download a complete report of all your records, all in a single document.

He says he is fortunate that Stuart and Helen recognise the value of ongoing training and development.

“They have allowed me time away from the farm to do these things and I am grateful for that.

“I am trying to move forward all the time, trying to understand as much as I can about farming, and they recognise that this will help them too.’’

Looking to the future, Ernie, a member of the NFU Cymru Next Generation Group, sees good opportunities for the next generation of farmers.

“New entrants are the lifeblood of any vibrant industry, and farming is no exception,’’ he says.

“It can be a difficult sector to get a foothold in for young people with no background in agriculture but going forward I think we will see many more different ways to help make that happen.’’

Keep up to date with the latest Farming Connect has to offer you and your business by visiting our website, social media channels or by speaking to your local Development Officer. The Agri Academy application window is open NOW and will close on 15 April 2024.

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in search for county’s top progressive farmers



IF you farm in Pembrokeshire and can demonstrate your farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture then the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society encourage you to enter the prestigious Baron de Rutzen Award.

Adam Thorne, Pembrokeshire County Show President, said, “We are looking for local Pembrokeshire farmers, under the age of 45, who can demonstrate their farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture. They also need to show consideration for the environment and habitat sensitivity on their farm as well as present an aesthetically pleasing example of farming in the county. The competition welcomes all livestock and arable sectors to take part.”

Last year’s winners of the Award were Mark and Caroline Davies of Little Newcastle, Haverfordwest. They milk 230 pedigree Holsteins through a fully automated system. They rear their own replacements and also have a small beef enterprise. The farm is all grassland and they follow a strict reseeding and liming policy to optimise the yield from their multi-cut silage system. The couple place significant emphasis on animal health, husbandry and breeding to maximise the efficiency of their system. 

Baron John Fredrick De Rutzen was President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in 1936 and the Baron de Rutzen Trophy was produced in his memory. The third Baron served in the Welsh Guards and tragically died, aged 36, in 1944.   

This year’s entrants must be fully practising farmers within the county of Pembrokeshire and were under the age of 45 years on 1 January 2024. Entries can either be by nomination or direct application online on the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society website. Click here to apply:  Baron de Rutzen Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (

The closing date for nominations and applications is at noon on Wednesday, 29 May 2024.

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society elect new president



ARABLE and beef farmer, Adam Thorne, has been unanimously elected to become the new President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society for the year ahead. Adam is the third generation of his family to hold the position.

During the Annual General Meeting of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, held last week on the Pembrokeshire Showground, Mr Tim John and his wife Margaret John were also voted in as Presidents elect.

Adam Thorne has had a long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. After visiting the show as a toddler, then helping show the family’s pedigree Herefords, his uncle got him into helping him with stewarding in his early teens. From there he progressed to being a Steward with his own section, Commercial Cattle, and then also the Butcher’s Lambs section.

From stewarding, Adam became involved with committee work, starting as an Executive and then on to the former Finance and General Purposes Committee. He has been Chairman of the Estates Committee for 12 years and is now a Board member and a Trustee.

Adam said, “I am proud of my long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. I am the third generation to now be President, following my late grandfather, Walter Thorne, my father, Robert Thorne and more recently my uncle, George Thorne. I am looking forward to my year in the prestigious position.”

Away from his work with the society, Adam runs the family’s arable and beef farm in Robeston West, Milford Haven. He has been heavily involved with Tiers Cross YFC from an early age, having been Club Secretary twice and Chairman. He has also sat on Pembrokeshire County YFC Committees and the Wales YFC Rural Affairs Committee. 

The 2024 Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society officeholders, announced at the AGM, include Miss Ffion Edwards who was awarded the role of Ambassador at last year’s show. Ffion, a nurse from Maenclochog, has enjoyed many years of attending the county show and believes that there are so many good elements to it. Ffion has been a member of Llysyfran YFC for 15 years and enjoys every aspect of young farmers – trying new experiences, competing and travelling to name a few. Mrs Nicola Owen was also elected as the Honorary Treasurer.   

Brian Jones, the outgoing Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, took the opportunity to thank everyone who had helped and supported him throughout his presidency. During his year as President, Brian and his wife Helen, raised a tremendous amount of money for various charities including the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, RABI, Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. Brian also gave his assurances that Castell Howell will continue to sponsor the Food Hall for future years.

Pembrokeshire County Show, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will be held over two days again this summer on 14 and 15 August. Everyone is invited to attend the celebration of rural life in the county.

Pictured (left to right): Ffion Edwards the Ambassador for 2024; Adam Thorne, President; Margaret and Tim John, the Presidents Elect.

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£1,000 bursary award available to Pembrokeshire agricultural students



PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society’s £1,000 Bursary Award is now open for applications from students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects allied to agriculture.

The Student Bursary Award 2024 is available to students, from Pembrokeshire, who are currently studying or have been accepted to start their studies. They can apply for this financial support to assist with their chosen college or career path.

Last year’s winner of the award was Lottie Wilson from Hayscastle. Lottie was studying agriculture at the University of Nottingham when she applied for the bursary. When she is at home she is a general dairy farm worker as well as a lambing hand and a calving beef herd assistant. In 2021 she was the top agriculture student at Hartpury College.

Robert James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

“A panel of independent judges will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”  

Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicant’s family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

Further details and the entry form can be found online: Student Bursary Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (  or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is noon on Monday, 1 July 2024.

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