A series of well-timed and strategic diversifications has given financial security to a Welsh family farm.

The Edwards family have been farming Hendre-Ifan-Goch Farm near Blackmill, Bridgend, since 1975.

The 250-acre farm was initially run as a beef and sheep unit but diminishing returns encouraged the family to looked outside agriculture to secure the long-term future of the business.

In 2000, they created a farm park and trout fishery. Russell, who farms with his wife, Eira, and 24-year-old son, Rhys, created the lake at the focal point of the enterprise. At two acres, that was no mean feat but, helped by his father, William, it provided the centrepiece of a business that ran for a decade.

Tougher regulation and rising insurance costs associated with running a farm park forced a rethink and the family decided to rent out the site. It has since been run as a highly successful wedding and events venue.

The Edwards’ didn’t abandon the tourism sector completely, creating a caravan and camping park in 2013. It made that field the highest earning four acres on the farm.

“We would have to keep another 2,500 sheep to match the income we earn from the campsite, and it is only open for six months of the year,’’ Rhys calculates.

Another wise diversification was the construction of a 5.5kW hydroelectric power plant on the farm. The initial investment was £16,000 with a projected payback period of five years but it paid for itself within three years.

The plant provides an annual income of between £5,000 - £8,000 and generates electricity for the farmhouse and farm buildings. A ground source heat pump provides heating for the house.

The diversifications underpin the business but lamb production is still important.

Ewe numbers have reduced from 600 to 500 but, by monitoring performance and improving genetics, the flock is producing the same number of lambs. In addition to the ewes, there are 170 ewe lambs, 110 of which lambed this year.

The ewes are mostly Texel Mules with Aberfield tups used, and Beulah Speckle Faced for breeding replacements. This year the ewes scanned at 170% and the ewe lambs at 100%.

Lambing gets underway on March 1st with the older ewes lambed first, followed by yearlings and ewe lambs on March 21st. Everything is lambed inside and the average lamb birthweight is 4kg.

The flock is housed at scanning on January 1 and fed 300-500g of blend and 100g soya per head for two weeks before lambing. Four kilogrammes of silage topped up with blend is fed with a TMR feeder wagon.

Another benefit to housing is that it keeps any potential fluke problems under control.

“We have a big fluke problem in this area so we dose the flock on January 1st and again six weeks later,’’ says Russell.

“There is a benefit to resting the fields and we get zero fluke problems. We would like to lamb outside but by doing this we wouldn’t be able to use EID to link the ewes to the lambs and to record birthweights.’’

Lambs are weaned at 12 weeks and sold either liveweight at Cowbridge or Monmouth marts or deadweight to St Merryn or the Dunbia plant at Llanybydder.

For the last three years, Rhys has found a novel way of selling the ewe lambs – on Facebook.

“We seem to get £10 above the market average, customers like to come to the farm to see the stock,’’ he says.

Rhys joined the business in 2012 after initially working as an electrician. His skills have been invaluable – he did all the wiring for the hydroelectric plant and the campsite.

He had always wanted to farm but, as a teenager, his parents weren’t entirely convinced that it was the right career for him.

“We didn’t think he would make a farmer but he has proved us wrong!’’ Russell admits.