The finalists in the Menter Moch Cymru & Wales YFC Pig Finishing Initiative 2020 are getting on well with their new livestock, and gearing up for the competition finale at the Virtual Royal Welsh Winter Fair.

The six young farmers are embarking on the next exciting stage of the keenly contested annual competition – which aims to encourage the next generation of pig keepers and to get farmers thinking about pigs as a viable diversification option.

Ongoing restrictions mean the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at the end of November will be a virtual event – and along with it the climax of this year’s Menter Moch Cymru & Wales YFC Pig Finishing Initiative.

The six finalists are: Angharad Thomas Dyffryn Tywi YFC, Emily Lloyd Llangwyrfon YFC, Ethan Williams Llantrisant YFC, Katie Hughson Howey YFC, Teleri Vaughan Eglwyswrw YFC, and Teleri Evans Pontsian YFC.

Usually, the finalists are revealed in person at the Royal Welsh Show, however this year, the organisers turned to technology, and the announcement was made online as part of the Wales YFC programme at the Virtual Royal Welsh Show in July.

In early September, each finalist was given five, eight-week-old Welsh pig weaners to rear. The weaners are weighed every fortnight so that their growth rate and feed consumption can be recorded, and the finalists have already started their bespoke training to help them with their venture.

Designed and delivered by Menter Moch Cymru, the training programme includes pig husbandry and welfare, legislation and feed/nutrition, with additional training sessions held throughout the year.

The training sessions also feature experienced pig keepers passing on first-hand the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years.

The finalists are also participating in monthly Zoom meetings where a specialist speaker covers different aspects of pig production, show preparation and marketing.

As the young farmers’ skills develop, they will continue to receive support and training from Menter Moch Cymru – including advice on how to market their pork products.

“All the pigs are settling in well, and it’s great to see these young farmers develop into new pig keepers. The training and support they receive from the Menter Moch Cymru project aims to give them all the tools they need for this new venture and will continue over the course of this year,” said Melanie Cargill, Menter Moch Cymru project manager.

Wales YFC’s rural affairs chairman Clare James said: “We are delighted to be working with Menter Moch Cymru again to promote pig keeping as a future enterprise to our members.

"While the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions mean this year’s competition has been a virtual event, there has been no lack of enthusiasm and dedication among those taking, and excitement is building for the final!”

Mared Jones, head of operations at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, said: “We had a tremendous response to July’s Virtual Royal Welsh Show, and we’re looking forward to providing another great virtual platform for the Winter Fair.

"We’re very pleased that the Menter Moch Cymru & Wales YFC Pig Finishing Initiative final will be part of the packed programme we will be offering online visitors.”

For more details about the Virtual Royal Welsh Winter Fair please go to:

Being part of a new farm enterprise is an experience for both the finalists and their pigs.

Emily Lloyd and Teleri Vaughan work in the NHS and they find keeping the pigs a good way to unwind after busy shifts.

Emily’s piglets are enjoying the acorns and apples she collects for them, and she says: “I could watch them all day as their antics are so funny, and they help me to relax.”

Teleri Vaughan is making the most of the resources that are already on the farm. She is the only finalist to keep her pigs outside, and feeds them on surplus milk from the family’s dairy enterprise – which will be an important part of her ‘USP’ when it comes to marketing the pork.

She says: “The pigs live in an arc built by my dad, and I also use a home-made crate to weigh them.”

Angharad Thomas has set up a social media account for her pigs. She says: “It has been really successful and I’ve already found buyers for the meat from four out of the five weaners.

It has been an amazing experience since the pigs arrived and seeing their development along with monthly meetings with experts and breeders from the pig industry in Wales. I would encourage anyone thinking of keeping pigs to try this competition next year as it has been a very valuable experience.”

Teleri Evans, from Pontsian YFC, added: “I’m enjoying this new experience and I’m lucky to have help from my family to look after the piglets, says .

Katie Hughson and Ethan Williams both live on large beef and sheep farms.

“It’s a great experience, and I’ve been able to use part of the empty sheds to house my piglets, I'm really enjoying been part of the pig finishing scheme,” says Katie.

Says Ethan: “I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, before even finishing I thought about getting more pigs after this, I couldn't recommend it more. My family already operates boxed meat schemes for the beef and lamb and they are look forward to adding Welsh pork to the range."