Every year the RWAS county committees, the Welsh Mule Sheepbreeders Association, the National Sheep Association, NFU, FUW and CLA in Wales are each invited to nominate a person born, working or living in Wales who, in their opinion, has made an outstanding contribution to the Welsh sheep industry.

In turn the successful nominee, as the Welsh Sheep Farmer of the Year, receives one of the most prestigious prizes in Welsh agriculture, the John Gittins Memorial Award.

The latest winner – presented with his trophy by the president of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, Mr Brian Jones, at the Winter Fair – is Richard Roderick, 53, who, with his family, run a mixed holding extending to 650 acres at Newton Farm, Scethrog, in the Brecon Beacons.

The Rodericks' breeding flock extends to 1,100 ewes and 260 replacement ewe lambs alongside beef and arable enterprises. The flock’s breeding cycle begins in September with the ewes being scanned in early December and then housed and sheared prior to Christmas – this system, developed for winter housing of the ewes, is aimed at minimum labour and feeding cost.

High quality silage is made each year in early June and stored in two clamps with four faces, each one capable of feeding 250 ewes. On housing, the ewes self-feed from each face and the feeding barriers are moved on each morning, allowing one person to feed 1,000 ewes in 20 minutes, without the use of any machinery.

The farm also welcomes primary school children to the farm each year, to learn how lamb is produced from the farm to plate, and the next generation of young farmers from local high schools visit the farm once a week to carry out the practical side of their BTec Level 2 Diploma.

Richard and his wife, Helen, are among a group of local farmers who have successfully conducted a project to investigate the benefits of grazing a plantain and red/white clover mix as part of the Farmer Innovation Fund project within the last Farming Connect programme.

At Newton Farm the judging panel: Gwynne Davies, representing the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, Kevin Parry, from the Welsh Mule Sheepbreeders Association and Llew Thomas, from the National Sheep Association Wales found what they considered to be “a cocktail of good old-fashioned family teamwork, well-balanced books and a dash of entrepreneurial flare that contributed the family sheep farm to be a business that will be going for generations to come.”

The panel also felt that the family were well focused on achieving a fully sustainable, grass-based system of profitable lamb production. The improvement of 250 acres of old grass leys, with new swards and clover mixes, and the introduction of Aberfeld rams to drive greater prolificacy and growth rates off grass was also to their credit.

Grasping the bigger picture, and not going un-noticed by the judges, it was clear how the family had a long- term plan to further develop and prosper in this particularly beautiful part of the world by planting a sustainable mixture of some 6,000 trees.

The other nominations for the award included Emlyn Morgan, Myddfai, Carmarthen., Rob Rattray, New Cross, Ceredigion; Myfyr Evans, Llanrheadr, Denbigh; Geraint Jones, Llangynwyd, Glamorgan; Llion Jones, Llanegryn, Merioneth; Russell Davies, Efailwen, Pembrokeshire; Dewi Jones, Capel Dewi, Aberystwyth; Margaret Dalton, Llangybi, Lampeter; Arthur George, Penybanc, Llanidloes, and Moss Jones, Llandre, Aberystwyth.