As part of our campaign to Back British Farming we sit down with farmers on our rural community blog, and chat about all things farming. In this blog we spoke with Robbie Alman-Wilson (@robalmanwils), from Llanbister in Powys Mid Wales. Robbie works on a Hill farm comprising of sheep, beef cattle and free range laying hens. Read more below about her journey and life in farming…
What’s your farming background?
I was lucky enough to be born into farming, we traced the family tree back to the 1600’s and it was pretty boring as every one of them was a Welsh farmer from Radnorshire, so it’s in the blood a bit!
Why did you decide to become a farmer?
I’ve always loved working with stock and horses being brought up with both, it’s all I’ve ever known, and I just couldn’t find anything else I was interested in really.
What led you to decide to farm the animals you have?
Well the sheep and cattle are pretty much the staple of every farm here in Mid Wales, especially being a hill farm, what would Welsh mountains be without sheep & ponies😄
The Egg business was my husband Dales idea coming up for 15 years ago now.
It was becoming more apparent as farmers needed to diversify in some way, and free-range eggs is what he come up with.
We started off with a 12,000 hen unit and then in the years following Dale and his father have built more sheds themselves as now we have 34,000.
What are the key qualities needed to do your job?
I think the most important things are to enjoy what you’re doing and take pride in it.
If you enjoy something you want to do it, and you do the best job you can, whereas as if you don’t really want to be there, you don’t put as much effort in.
Also always be willing to keep learning because nobody knows everything, and you can learn something new every day if your open to it.
How did you train for and become competent at this role?
Being brought up on a farm I constantly had the advantage of being able to watch and learn, and then doing it yourself. The more you do, the more you learn and the more competent you get.
Do you use a sheepdog? What’s his or her name and how long have you had them?
Yes we’ve got 4 sheepdogs and Nell is mine.
She’s a Welsh sheepdog and I’d be lost without her. The only training she had was from me, and I had none, so she’s absolutely no trials dog, and on some things, I call it precision work, she’s not much cop, but she’s our calmest dog and most reliable for the more simple jobs and to drive flocks around, she’d be what you call a useful dog.
Our best dog is my Dales dog Fly, she’s the oldest and pretty irreplaceable. She’s the “precision” dog and the catching dog, at lambing time she comes into her own.
Then we have Pip and Cooney, Cooney being pretty useful getting, bit keen, but hopefully she’ll come into her own the more she’s used.
Pip is Dale’s dog too and does nothing for me🤣
Did you need to do additional training with the dog?
No additional training, but surely could have done with it!
Do you have children and run a home too? If so, how do you juggle these responsibilities?
Yes Dale and I have two boys, both almost teenagers, they are becoming good help on the farm for us, especially at lambing time.
How do I keep on top of it? In the house, Dale & the boys would say the amount I moan at them about stuff I don’t! 🤣
Briefly describe a typical working day (e.g. what time do you get up, have breakfast, round the sheep up etc).
Oh that’s a hard one as it changes so much on our farm given the time of year.
it’s hard to remember a typical day at the moment because we’re a month and a half into lambing with another month and a half to go.
Obviously one of us is up early at the mo which is me as Dale does nights at lambing time, the boys have to be up at 7am to get ready for school so I have to make sure they are up.
A brew is always the first thing surely!?
Always let the dogs out first and clean them out. At the moment it’s checking the sheds then checking the outside lambers, then feeding the ewes and lambs outside, scraping the cattle out, by the time that’s done it’s around dinner time, after dinner marking up lambs inside and losing out.
feeding and littering all the sheds, and pens have tea, go to bed! 🤣
Do you get any time off? If you do, what do you like to do?
I used to compete horses and would be off most wknds doing that, now we tend to show our pedigree Dutch spotted sheep and quite often stay away at shows which I enjoy.
I Love socialising with friends at summer shows and speed shears etc with a gin in hand if possible.
What’s great about being a farmer?
Well for me I’m more of a animal person than I am a people person, and being able to be by myself apart from animals a lot of the time in the countryside is my ideal.
Wouldn’t want it any other way.
What do you think are the challenges for farmers?
Trying to get the people who aren’t farmers to support us and not be against us!
Have you always felt supported when learning and on the job?
I think if your seen to be keen to learn, most people are more than willing to teach you.
What would you say to other people thinking of becoming a farmer?
I’d say it’s a wonderful way of life, and go for it.
Always be open minded and use common sense, watch everything, because you can learn something from everyone.
Give everything a go, it’s the only way to learn.
What job opportunities are available for somebody, man or woman, wanting to enter the trade?
There so many opportunities in farming if you’re willing to graft, and there are always seasonal jobs in farming such as lambing, wool rolling, shearing, tractor driving etc and they are the best way to gain experience quickly and have a craic meeting people while you do it. And seeing if you like that kind of work.
Personally, I’ve always thought I’d quite like a job milking cows if I wasn’t at home.
If you’re a farmer and you’d like to contribute in our campaign to raise awareness for the incredible work in British agriculture, please drop us a DM on Instagram – @aplanrural