By Debbie James

In the words of American writer Maya Angelou: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”

Huw and Sheila Davies were struggling to make a living milking cows on their Carmarthenshire hill farm when their eldest daughter shared these words of wisdom with her parents.

“We looked at the farm and the income it was bringing in,’’ Huw recalls. “No matter how hard we worked, if we didn’t rent or buy more land and expand the herd, we couldn’t improve our income.’’

They concluded that the topography of the farm – three hills rising to 1,000 feet – was better suited to lamb production so the 28-cow herd was sold in 2001 and replaced with a flock of sheep.

Winter tack housing has since been provided for dairy youngstock and beef cattle and a redundant farm building converted into a holiday cottage.

The change of direction didn’t end there. Huw’s skills were in demand off farm so he added value to the family business by ‘diversifying’.

In tandem with running the farm with Sheila, he acquired several income-generating roles, initially as a software trainer for National Milk Records and Menter a Busnes and as an Agrisgop leader and later as an adviser to the owners of the Dunbia meat processing company and a business development manager for the farm software business Agriweb.

But of all the work he does, it is sheep farming he is most proud of. He introduces himself to people as a sheep farmer’s husband – Sheila runs the flock when he is working off farm.

They are the third generation of the Davies family to farm at Llandre, a National Trust holding on the Dolaucothi Estate near Pumsaint.

Huw’s grandfather took on the tenancy in 1947 and, when Huw left the Welsh Agriculture College at 21, he joined his parents, Glyn and Doris, as a partner in the business.

When he married Sheila, a Breconshire farmer’s daughter, three years later, his parents retired from the business.

“We were left to fend for ourselves. My father said to me that he didn’t want to be committed to the farm but that he wanted to be able to come back to help,’’ says Huw.

Glyn sadly passed away earlier this year but until illness struck he did indeed spend much of his ‘retirement’ helping on the farm.

Since acquiring 45 acres from a neighbouring farm in 1992, Llandre now extends to 280 acres.

In common with nearly every other farm in the Cothi Valley, Llandre had produced milk but there is now only one dairy farm remaining.

“In the 1960s nearly every farm in this valley had seven or eight cows and it brought in decent money,’’ Huw recollects.

The flock which replaced the dairy herd at Llandre currently numbers 500 ewes – numbers were reduced this year.

“We were both 55 this year and it was a tough lambing!’’ laughs Sheila.

Numbers have reduced but ewe size has increased with a switch from the Highlander to the Aberfield.

Lambs are sold to Dunbia, this year at an average of 80.2kg. Most of these have achieved R and U grades.

The flock, which lambs in the second week of March, is traditionally housed at the end of December but, following concerns about the cost of straw as bedding, 10 acres of root crops were planted this year to provide grazing until mid-February.

Huw’s off-farm roles include sitting on the boards of Hybu Cig Cymru and the National Fallen Stock Company and he is an independent member on rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths' Brexit Roundtable Stakeholder Group.

He is also the county chairman of NFU Cymru in Carmarthenshire.

Huw’s professional path has taken him on a different route to the one he originally set out on but it is one which he embraces.

He looks upon his family – daughters Fflur, Siwan and Delun and sons-in-law Chris and Daryl – as his shareholders. Everyone should go through life doing the best for their family and that means looking at all your skills. I try to be a man of value, to add value to everything I do.’’