ONE family with a deep seated commitment to the development and success of  both the Royal Welsh Show and the Welsh Winter Fair are the Pughs of Cwm Whitton.

The late Verney Pugh, a former Royal Welsh president, was one of the handful of the event’s founders. His son, Colin, has been a senior steward ever since he was a youngster and his son, Gareth, is also following the family’s dedication.

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Colin is well-known among exhibitors for his stewarding of the keenly contested carcase competitions, a role he relishes given his own beef and lamb producing mainstay enterprises.

Together with his wife, Phyllis, he has developed an award-winning livestock and arable unit consisting of 214 ha (530 acres) owned and 190 ha (470 acres) of mostly adjoining rented ground.

Rising from 600 feet in the valley of the River Lugg, the land rises to over 1,300 feet on top of the hill near to Offa’s Dyke, not far from the Wales-England border at Knighton, Powys.

As well as cattle and sheep, the farm is also noted for its seed potatoes – this year scoring a first for Wales in sending some to Scotland.

Annual average rainfall stands at 38 inches and the soil type is a medium loam, with the flatter parts in the valley bottoms and tops of the hills divided by steep sides.

Several farm roads were constructed in the 1970s to improve access and livestock shelter belts planted in the 1940s have been added to or replanted.

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Colin’s grandfather took over the tenancy of Cwm Whitton in 1914 before purchasing it in 1922 and over the years the farming system has changed from breeding Kerry Hills and selling rams, ewes and store lambs to finishing all the lambs from Texel cross ewes.

Producing weaned calves from Hereford cross cows has also been replaced by finishing all the progeny from Salers crosses, while back in 1964 when a 30-cow dairy herd, supported by a milk round in local towns, was sold in came the seed potato enterprise.

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The Hereford cross cows were initially partly replaced with Welsh Blacks put to a Charolais bull until 1992 when a Salers bull was used to produce an easy calving suckler cow crossed again with a Charolais.

Today’s 150 predominantly Salers single suckler cows go to British Blue, Charolais or Salers bulls and are split into autumn and spring calvers.

All the calves are finished on farm, being sold direct to ABP Shrewsbury or through Ludlow market. Salers heifers are retained for herd replacements. 4On the sheep side some 850 Texel cross Mule and Aberdale breeding ewes go to Texel, Bluefaced Leicester or Aberdale rams.

Around 200 ewe lambs are kept for replacements with all the other lambs sold finished mainly through Ludlow. Romney ewes have also recently arrived at the farm.

The 65 ha (160 acres) or so of cereals and root crops are down to winter wheat, winter barley, spring oats, spring barley and fodder beet, followed by long-term clover leys and ryegrass mixtures.

The seed potato operation has grown over the years and now supplies commercial growers all over the country, with Puffin Potatoes in Pembrokeshire one of the main outlets. Larger potatoes are sold mainly locally in carry-home bags.

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Over the past 10 years there has been a significant capital investment with a new 800-tonne refrigerated potato box store replacing two older ambient stores, along with a new grain and potato holding store, a new cattle handling system, a 105 foot by 65 foot silage-crimp-maize store and a 50kw solar panel installation to reduce power usage in the cold store.

In addition to family members the farm employs two full and one part-time workers, as well as casual staff at harvest and potato grading times.

“We aim to be as self-sufficient as possible in all aspects of the farm, from rearing our own replacements for both sheep and cattle to providing all our own forage and feed, except for proteins – although we have grown lupins and beans in recent years,” says Colin.

“The 200 solar panels on the roofs of two stores reduce power needs substantially and most of the water comes from springs and streams, being pumped to the hill by a Hydram and to the other land by an electric pump.”

Courtesy of Barry Alston, Pictures from Arvid Parry Jones