By Debbie James

Hefin Jones’ marriage certificate notes his occupation as ‘farmer, translator and facilitator’. With so many words jostling for space it is fortunate the vicar used a fine-tip pen, laughs fourth generation farmer Hefin.

“I’m a farmer first and foremost,’’ he declares, while acknowledging how much he enjoys his off-farm work as a Welsh language translator and freelance project facilitator and the valuable income contribution those jobs make to his finances.

Hefin, who is married to hairdresser and beauty therapist Rhian, was born and bred at Y Wern, the family farm near Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire. He farms the holding in partnership with his father, Vernon, and his mother, retired secondary school deputy headteacher, Elsbeth.

His father had been farming 80-acre Y Wern with his uncle but when that partnership ended a new agreement was formed between Hefin and his parents; they now farm 100 acres of owned and rented land.

Prior to that Hefin had ventured off farm to earn his living after studying Welsh and history at Swansea University.

“When I was considering my career options the farm wasn’t big enough to support three incomes so my parents told me to go off and see what I could do but that if I wanted to come back to farm one day I could. I respect them for sticking to that promise.’’

Hefin worked as a translator for the local authority and for an EU-funded project and then became a development officer for a community development organisation as well as working on other farms and for agricultural contractors.

He then took the plunge to become self-employed, a move that would provide flexibility when he returned to the farm.

His aspiration had always been to farm but he wouldn’t be pursing milk production as his father had. When his father’s health declined, the 80-cow British Friesian herd was sold and so too was the beef herd that had been kept to manage grazing.

“The farm had gone through a period of stagnation due to Dad’s poor health and the process of winding up the previous partnership and its size wasn’t big enough to support two families as a dairy farm without huge investment,’’ Hefin explains.

Neither did he want to relinquish his off-farm career which the commitment of dairying would have entailed.

That was 10 years ago when, with the help of a Young Entrants Support Scheme (YESS) grant and a Farming Connect business plan, a suckler beef system was established.

His first purchase was a tractor and loader and then he cashed in an ISA and bought a nucleus herd of 11 Welsh black yearlings from Welsh breeder Sue Williams and a Welsh black bull from a neighbour.

There was much work to be done – fields needed fencing and reseeding.

Hefin has changed his breeding policy since he started farming in 2009. A Charolais bull was purchased and the offspring are commanding good returns as 10-15-month-old stores.

Hefin continues to use a Welsh black bull on his heifers for their first two calvings.

“Even though we are very careful to select bulls with the right EBVs (estimated breeding values) I wouldn’t be happy putting a Charolais on heifers and I can’t quite seem to tear myself away from the Welsh black!’’

Ahead of the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union, further changes have been put in place.

Two Charolais-cross heifers from the milkiest cow lines have been retained and sired to a Hereford bull.

“I am conscious that after we leave the EU we may find beef coming into this country from all over the place and when that happens the race to get cattle growing very quickly isn’t one I want to enter as on a grass-fed system I don’t think we could beat our competitors with quick finishing of cattle,’’ says Hefin.

Hefin’s working week can take him off farm for up to three days but, in addition to working as a translator and facilitator, he has another role which occupies some of his time.

A year ago he became a member of the NFU Cymru Next Generation group and is grateful of the opportunity that has given him to make a difference in the industry.

“We have the opportunity to take expert advice and to cascade the information down and to meet with people who occupy the corridors of power as well as networking with our own peers.’’