By Debbie James

A £2 tide table is the most important document in Dan Pritchard’s home. The booklet details every tide in a given year, information that dictates when Dan can graze his flock on the salt marshes.

Lambs forage on sea samphire, sea thrift and fescue, salt tolerant herbs that give their meat a distinctive flavour and a price premium.

When a tide is predicted to rise to 7.4 metres, it is time for Dan and his family to round their sheep off the marsh land and move them to other farmland until the water level subsides.

Fortunately, the table is highly accurate so there have been very few occasions when poor weather conditions have forced an unpredicted and speedy departure.

“We have to keep one eye on the weather, sometimes it can be a bit of a panic to bring the sheep in but we have a track that runs down to the marsh and we can get out there in ten minutes,’’ says Dan, who farms with his father, Rowland, and younger brother, Will, at Weobley Castle on the northern shores of the Gower Peninsular.

The waxing and waning of the tides also dictate the timing of other flock management jobs – for instance the tide table confirmed a high tide on June 4 this year so that’s when the shearers were booked to get the sheep’s fleeces removed.

The Pritchards share grazing on Llanrhidian Marsh with six other farmers, the number of sheep they run on this stretch of common land dictated by the historic scale of their holdings.

This large salt marsh covers around 4,000 acres of land within the Burry Estuary and grazing is made possible because there are fresh water sources that run through the marshland providing drinking water.

The number of sheep permitted to graze on the marsh is dictated by the size of the holdings of the farmers who have common rights – this is five sheep per acre so the Pritchards, who farm just over 250 acres can graze 1,300 ewes.

Dan’s grandfather bought Weobley Castle Farm in the 1960s, a farm which, as the name might suggest, came with its own castle.

The family own the castle but it is managed by the Welsh historic monuments body, Cadw, and is a popular visitor attraction.

Weobly Castle Farm is a grassland farm which extends to 250 acres and incorporates 20 acres of woodland.

The Pritchards use this land for grazing when the marsh is flooded and also from November, when conditions on the marshland get too challenging for the flock.

The flock of 1000 Welsh Mules lambs outside and are turned into the lambing fields a month before lambing in April and May.

The first of the ewes with April-born singles are turned out onto the marsh at the beginning of May followed by the twins two or three weeks later.

Daily liveweight gains are dictated by the health of the lambs when they are turned out onto the marsh. “If they are healthy when they go out there they are healthy coming back in,’’ says Dan.

The first draw of lambs is taken at the beginning of July. Lambs are slaughtered at a small abattoir at Crofty, five miles from the farm.

Dan aims for a 19kg carcass but, because the lamb is marketed thorough the farm’s own shop this is only a guide.

“It is not like selling to a supermarket where everything has to be uniform, it doesn’t matter if the sizes aren’t consistent. We can have R3Ls, R3Hs, it varies,’’ he says.

The farm and Gower Salt Marsh Lamb are run as two separate businesses with the meat enterprise buying the lambs from the farm business.

Dan says the price premium commanded by the salt marsh lamb is important and, although none of the lamb is exported, he worries about the impact Brexit could have on the price.

“We use the general market price as a base price for pricing our lamb then add a premium, if the base price dropped we would have to reduce our prices,’’ he says.