The last twelve months has seen tough times for farming. Here in West Wales the dairy industry is important part of our economical, environmental and cultural landscape. Unfortunately the continuing poor milk price driven by a supermarket price/market share war continues to hit farmers hard. To me the bigger picture is more worrying. It appears that if we continue down this path we will drive dairy farming out of existence, but I am for one not happy drinking imported milk. It seems crazy that in these days of environmental awareness that we seem happy to move bulk fluids hundreds of miles along congested motorways - even more crazy is the need to buy mineral water bottled at the other end of the country. Please try to buy locally. It supports your local community and reduces wasted haulage journeys on motorways. NOW I appreciate I have gone way off topic here! So…...
Thankfully its been a relatively mild winter and a warm spring so far, so there are small mercies to be grateful for. One area of farming to benefit from the recent mild weather has been sheep farming and more specifically - lambing.
Recent signs of spring has marked the end to the long dark Towy valley winter. Daffodils, Snow drops and primroses in the hedgerows are real signs that the weather is taking a turn for the better. Most recently I spotted a sand martin returning from Africa to make a nest in the banks of the Towy. Also Whooper swans are gathering in numbers in the field next to us, no doubt waiting for favourable winds to help them on their flight back towards their breeding grounds of Iceland and Greenland. So it's official, spring is here to stay.
The last few months for some are the busiest, as lambing season peaks. Some farms had started lambing before Christmas, but it's not until now when you can see the evidence of lambing in the fields around Carmarthenshire as the lambs with their mothers move to out the fields. Fingers are crossed that this good weather continues, making the crucial first few weeks of a lambs life be productive as possible and they can quickly gain weight in the relative warmth of the spring sunshine.
Sheep farming in Ceredigion...
Earlier this month my family spent an afternoon at a relatives sheep farm in Ceredigion. I think its only when you've visited working farms on a number of occasions that you start to learn about the many stories and dramas that are being played. There's birth, death, rejection and adoption all there to be seen and experienced. It can be pretty intense and exhausting at times.
I love to take a camera with me. The sheds where all the "action" takes place are often dark a part from light appearing from cracks in the building and sheds. If you are interested the majority of pictures are taken with my FujiFilm X-T1 with the ISO set around 3200 and beyond - these are dark sheds!
"Roy" the sheep dog picture is taken on my Rolleiflex while sitting in the late afternoon sun of the Teifi valley. Now a elderly statesman on the farm, these warm spring days are now used to dream about former glories of rounding up sheep in the deep snow.
Sheep farming in Carmarthenshire….
The end of March is turning to be a beautiful start to spring. Not having a great deal of free time these days it was nice to stay local and visit a neighbours farm in the Towy valley. Lambing has been in full swing over the last few weeks and many of the early lambs are coming on strong and gaining weight.
Again….if you are interested, these were taken with a Nikon D800e with the brilliant 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Although a beautiful morning, probably a bit too late in the morning as the sun was a little harsh which isn't always the best thing for taking pictures of clean white lambs - especially the ones with black heads! I also took a few with the Rollei so I will have to wait to get them developed - but patiences isn't always my greatest virtue.
Just a quick bit of advice, first is obvious - don't take your dog with you when taking pictures of livestock. The dogs in this post are sheep dogs, but even their presence will cause a reaction from the ewes. During lambing the dogs are often excluded from the lambing areas for this reason.
Ideally ask permission to take photos of livestock and if someone doesn't want you there, then respect this. Farming can be a dangerous job. Get in the way and you, farmers and livestock could be put at risk.
When taking photos try to keep a low profile. I will often sit on the floor to make a less threatening stance to the animals. After keep still for a while you will start to see the animals move closer as their naturally inquisitive nature will get the better of them. Also, if you keep low, you are at their level which in my opinion gives your picture a better connection with the subject.
So this is lambing 2015 in West Wales, I look forward to seeing the lambs grow during the spring and summer months.
Any feedback is welcome and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!