By Debbie James

On a clear day, from the top of Penlanwynt Farm in the Gwaun Valley, it is possible to see Ireland in one direction and Snowdonia in the other.

For the Davies family, their vision of what they want for their business is as sharp as the view from their farm.

“We will always try to produce meat, that’s the main objective, and to produce what the market wants,’’ says Hedd.

Sheep is Hedd’s main interest so the business has developed around that enterprise as his two sons, Llyr and Gethin, have joined the business.

Ewe numbers have grown to 1100 and they share grazing on 340 acres of pasture with around 700 store lambs which are bought locally and fattened.

The flock, which scanned at 180 per cent this year, lambs in three batches, in January, February and March. Lambing is indoors with ewes and lambs housed for up to five days before they are turned out to grass.

Lambs are all sold to Kepak in Merthyr Tydfil, from May and at a deadweight target of 21kg while the store lambs are fattened off grass and sold to Randall Parker Foods in Llanidloes.

When lambing gets underway, Hedd is in demand off-farm, scanning other flocks. He leaves home at first light, arriving home again in the dark.

“The boys are in charge and dad does his bit and I do what I can when I get home,’’ says Hedd.

His wife, Sian, who has a full time job with the local authority, also lends a hand when she can.

Hedd has run his own scanning business for 20 years, buying the business from a neighbour.

Visiting other farms gives him a unique perspective on the different approaches farmers take to running their flocks.

“I pick up ideas on different ways of doing things,’’ he says.

The farmyard at Penlanwynt sits at 900 feet, with the land at the highest point rising to 1,000 feet, which means long winters and therefore high feed costs.

“Our grazing season is shorter than it is in the lowlands, we are growing grass in the summer to feed as baled haylage for seven months of the year,’’ says Hedd.

But the challenging climate has not deterred Hedd and Sian’s sons from following the family’s farming heritage.

“I always encouraged the boys since they were small to come and help on the farm but they were never forced to,’’ says Hedd.

For Llyr, the route to farming wasn’t as direct as it was for Gethin who, at two years his junior, knew he wanted to farm.

Llyr, now 22, left school at 16 to work at a leisure centre. “He loved it there and he was able to help on the farm too because he did shift work,’’ says Hedd.

“Then one day, out of the blue, he said he really wanted to be at home on the farm full time. It’s fantastic having them both here.’’

Like their father, both Llyr and Gethin have off-farm work to generate additional income to support the business.

They spend many weeks in the summer shearing –last year they sheared a whopping 22,000 sheep.

For many farming families, this has become the modern way of farming, says Hedd. “You have got to diversify, and have an additional income alongside the farm.’’

He does have concerns about how the changes to farm support, notably the phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme, will impact the business.

But farmers, he insists, would ultimately prefer to receive a fair price for what they produce rather than subsidies. “We were concerned about Brexit but since we left the EU lamb prices have been very good.

“If prices continue at this level we could farm without the Single Farm Payment, which is what we want.’’

Hedd is not yet sure how he might take advantage of the proposals set out in the Welsh government’s white paper on agriculture but says there may be opportunities to tap into.

“As long as we are not taking our best land out of production, we will look at what’s on offer because we are used to adapting and trying new things.’’