A Welsh farmer has launched a ‘donate a sheep’ appeal to help families in need this Christmas.

Iwan Pughe Jones says he was inspired by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals during holiday periods.

He has now launched the Christmas appeal to encourage farmers to donate a lamb or ewe to sell to allow the Salvation Army in Aberystwyth to help struggling families buy presents for their children this Christmas.

Mr Pughe Jones, who farms in mid Wales, invited local Salvation Army captain Claire Durrant to a Farmers’ Union of Wales meeting earlier in November to talk to farmers about how the charity intended to assist families who are struggling to put food on the table and pay bills during the pandemic.

“Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has helped disadvantaged young people across the country with his food bank taskforce,” said Mr Pughe Jones.

“He set a benchmark for us all to aspire to, and I started to think how I could help.”

Farmers who attended the meeting were moved when they heard of the hardship families face, he added.

“They were having to make difficult choices of turning off heating and electricity, to the point where they had to justify turning the oven on to cook food for their families for a certain period of time, as they did not have the money to cover the cost – let alone offer their loved ones presents for Christmas Day.”

Farmers are asked to donate a sheep to sell at a designated livestock mart by December 14.

Mr Pughe Jones also wants to help people who had suffered financial loss or ill health during the pandemic and has set up a Just Giving page.

“I hope the idea will extend beyond Wales, so that we can really make a difference across the country,” he said. “When times are tough, farming has a proud history of getting together and helping those who are less fortunate.”

Major George Baker, divisional commander for the south and mid-Wales division of the Salvation Army, said he was delighted to receive the support from farmers.

“At Christmas, we aim to ensure that no one misses out on the hope, love, joy and peace of this special season,” he said.

The Salvation Army has an active presence in mid-Wales, with bases in Aberystwyth and Newtown, both of which will benefit directly from the money raised by this appeal.

It works alongside agencies such as the Farming Community Network (FCN) and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (Rabi) to provide specialist help to members of farming communities.

Welshpool Livestock Sales, Rhayader Livestock Sales, Oswestry Cattle Auctions and Farmers Marts are assisting with this appeal.

They have allocated the following sale dates and contact details:

Welshpool: Monday, December 7 (also Christmas fatstock). Contact Glandon Lewis on 07774 224999.

Oswestry: Wednesday, December 9 (also Christmas fatstock). Contact Glandon Lewis on 07774 224999.

Machynlleth: Wednesday, December 9 (also Christmas fatstock). Contact Glyn Jarrett on 07876 657493 or Haulwen T Jones on 07712 199542.

Rhayader: Thursday, December 10 (also Christmas fatstock). Contact Glandon Lewis on 07774 224999.

The organisers also plan to link up with the Welsh meat factories to assist with the appeal.

Producers who want to donate the value of a lamb/ewe should contact the following companies supporting the scheme:

Randall Parker Foods Llanidloes and Livestock Marketing. Contact Kevin Brown or James Coleman on 01686 412114.

Dunbia (Wales) – Llanybydder. Contact Awel Jones or Lynwen Mathias on 01570 480284.