Pembrokeshire’s Mark Davies, from Crosswell, Eglwyswrw has been announced as the winner of the NFU Cymru/NFU Mutual Welsh Livestock Champion of the Year Award 2023 at today’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Llanelwedd.

The competition has been on the lookout for its ninth winner and recognises the key role a good livestock manager can make to a livestock farm and to the wider Welsh livestock industry.

Having grown up on his family farm at the foot of the Preseli Mountains and playing a key role in the development of the business, Mark travelled to New Zealand to further his experience.

Upon returning home to Pembrokeshire, along with his wife Catherine, he bought his current home farm of Glanyfer.

Originally starting off with around 30 suckler cows made up of a mixture of Limousins and British Blues and 200 sheep, Mark decided to take the business in a different direction to maximise the value of the stock and to supply the market and he now has a herd of pedigree Limousin cattle.

He purchased cows and heifers at pedigree society sales which became the foundation of what the Glencross herd is today. After investing heavily with the hope of expanding every year, the farm was struck by a severe TB outbreak in 2010 and the herd Mark had built up was lost overnight.

This setback made him question if cattle was the best enterprise to run in the area, however after a clear test he persisted and slowly built the cattle numbers back up.

Mark’s aim is to produce quality store cattle at the young age of eight to 10 months with excellent confirmation.

Mark pays great attention to breeding and when choosing bulls has bought from Stirling and Carlise to develop the bloodlines of the herd.

Before heifers are bulled, Mark pays particular attention to pelvic measurements to help determine whether it is suitable to breed from the animal or not.

This management strategy has been effective in decreasing the number of c-sections as well as helping breed animals with larger pelvic areas, with the smaller animals being bred out over the years.

Mark runs a flock of Tregaron-type improved Welsh and Aberfield ewes that lamb during February and March.

The farm has grazing rights to the Preseli Mountains therefore most of the sheep are hefted to the mountain during the summer months.

All the ewe lamb replacements are kept and follow into the flock which has improved consistency and ensures hardiness. Sheep are kept on a low maintenance system, with no concentrates pre-lambing. All ewes are lambed outside.

A hand-picked selection of Welsh rams are kept for selling at autumn breeding sales which provides the farm with extra income.

Wholecrop is grown at Glanyfer and is fed to the cows as bales which increases milk production. Fodderbeet, swedes and turnip / rape mixtures are also grown, and strip grazed with the sheep. Mark has previously won the all-Wales silage bale competition for the quality of his silage.

When it comes to health and safety, Mark goes the extra mile to plan a job carefully to ensure everyone involved, as well as the animals, are safe. During calving, an IAE calving gate is used when needing to assist any cattle.

Mark Davies farming award
Pictured is Mark Davies being presented with his award by NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman, Rob Lewis and Mike Thomas, NFU Mutual Senior Agent and NFU Cymru Group Secretary (Pic supplied)

A boarded race is also used when handing cattle as well as a squeeze crush. Sheep are all handled using a Pratley handing system.

Presenting Mark with the prize of £500, sponsored by NFU Mutual, and a Royal Welsh engraved crystal trophy, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Livestock Board, Rob Lewis, said: “Mark’s attention to detail and care for his stock were clear to see and I am delighted to be able to present him with this award today.

“The quality of his stock and his enthusiasm to continue to develop the business was second to none and with the driving force of his three daughters, Caryl, Sara and Lowri, behind him I have no doubt that Mark is a well-deserved winner of this award.”

Mike Thomas, NFU Mutual Senior Agent and NFU Cymru Group Secretary, who was part of the judging panel, said: “It was clear to see the enthusiasm Mark has for the quality of his stock as soon as we met with him.

“He was passionate about the care his animals receive but also ensuring his business remains profitable. Mark’s thoughts around farm safety were especially important and NFU Mutual is pleased to recognise and champion good stockpeople who incorporate the best livestock practices with high standards of on-farm safety.”