By Farmer reporter

One of the most prestigious prizes in Welsh agriculture has been awarded to a sheep farmer with no family background in agriculture.

Steve Smith of Pen-Y-Bryn, Castle Caereinion, Welshpool, was raised in a non-farming family but he always knew from a very young age that he wanted to farm. He got the farming bug and eventually moved to work as a shepherd in Montgomeryshire.

He believed that the sheep industry had great opportunity and looked towards the then new breeds that were starting to be imported from the continent and decided that Texels and Belgian blues provided a great opportunity in developing the Welsh red meat sector.

In 1983 he brought his first importation of Texels and joined the Texel Sheep Society, recognising the importance of good animal health and welfare he became the first to have an MV registered flock in Wales.

By starting out on a council tenanted farm, he graduated to a Powis Estates farm before acquiring his own holding and further acreage, taking his holding to 1200 acres, increasing the sheep and suckler cow numbers along with diversifying into tourism, letting residential properties and renewable energy and timber production.

Over the years Mr Smith has attained many achievements, he was the chair and founder member of the first MLC performance recorded ram sales before it transferred to NSA.

A founder member of the Antur flock discussion group based at Ibers, his progressive approach to farming earned him the title of Welsh Sheep Farmer of the Year in 1993. As far as he knows, the competition – run by the then Premium Quality Lamb – was only run for a single year, making him the current (and sole) holder of the title.

Other roles included being a former branch chairman of Newtown FUW, a former director and chair of Montgomeryshire Rural Enterprises, which was established to support farming families to strengthen their base to secure it for future generations.

Mr Smith has competed with his stock at shows across the UK winning several of the top awards in county and national shows. This has led to many judging roles in Wales, national and European level helping to broaden his knowledge base and an opportunity to promote Welsh farming.

Promoting the Welsh red meat sector, improving technical ability and safe breeding programmes have been central to Mr Smith’s core business.

He regularly shares his knowledge and experience with others, especially the younger generation through being a mentor for the Welsh Government YESS scheme, and is extremely proud of the fact that three of his protégés have won the Brynle Williams Memorial Award for young entrants into farming.

As president of the Mid Wales and Shropshire Texel Club, he works with young breeders to support them to understand leadership and responsibilities required to ensure the industry is well represented going forward.

Mr Smith currently represents Wales Texel breeders as a director of the British Texel Breeding Society and chair of the breed development committee.

As a member of the finance committee he works closely with AHDB, HCC Innovate UK and academia to secure significant funding to research lamb eating quality, genetics and genomics and their impact on animal health and welfare, climate change adaptation and technical performance.

"None of my achievements would have been possible without the Welsh farming industry who gave me that support as a 19-year-old coming from grey pavements to green pastures," he said.

"I chose that theme as my submission for entry into CARAS Wales as an associate, which I am pleased to say was successful and I am looking forward to the next stage of my farming career and what that may bring."