The Farming Year
Cambrian Mountains Lamb is a Seasonal Product
The start of the year often coincides with the harsh Winter weather exacerbated by high hills. It is usually time to start feeding the ewes, with hay, sugar beet or mineral blocks. General farm maintenance is high on the agenda at this time of the year, with fencing and hedging taking up the most time. Cattle still play an important role on many hill farms and were once used to graze much of the hills during summer months. They are one of the few animals capable of grazing and digesting the stalky molinear grasses. Due to the high labour input and poor returns this has almost died out, although some environmental schemes promote the practice. From November until May cattle are housed inside and need bedding and feeding daily.
Ewes are scanned at this time of year to see how many lambs they are carrying. Those carrying twins (and possibly triplets) can then be separated from the singles and taken down onto better pastures.
Due to a variety of factors there has been a reduction in the number of ewes grazing the hills in recent years. This has lead to improved ewe body condition resulting in more twins. If these are left on the hill the quality of grazing is insufficient for the ewe to bring up two strong lambs.
Ewes on most hill farms are brought down off the hill to lamb. These fields not only offer improved pastures but also relative safety from predators.
Lambing begins in late March for most hill farms. The extensive nature of this type of farming means the ewes need very little assistance to lamb. It is a characteristic of native hill breeds that the lamb soon up on its feet and suckling its mother.
This is the busiest month of the year for the shepherd. Any weak lambs, or ewes must be caught and brought in. Many of the twins are adopted onto ewes that have lost their lambs.
Last year’s ewe lambs are returned to the hill after being kept down on lowland pastures over the winter months: this ensures their full growth potential is realised. These are the future breeding stock.
As the grass begins to grow on the hill, the new lambs are marked with the farm’s individual pitch or dye and are sent to the hills with their mothers.
Many of the hills have no fences or boundaries. Even so, lambs are taught to keep to their patch by feeding them in the same spot every day at dusk, so that they are not tempted to stray too far. This ancient technique is known as hefting. Fields are kept as hay for the next winter.
A busy month for the shepherds and more so for the dogs. All the ewes are gathered off the hill for shearing. Every farm has its own gathering and shearing date, with many neighbouring farmers exchanging days with each other.
During the summer months the ewes and lambs are difficult to gather. It is quite common to see seven or eight men gathering the hills with two or three dogs each.
The hills are gathered again and wether lambs (castrated male lambs) drawn down to better pastures. These are matured on grass giving the lamb its sweetness and flavour.
Older ewes are drawn down and sold to lowland farms, where they continue to produce a crop of lambs for a year or two.
Lambs that are ready are sold through local markets or direct to the abattoir. Ram sales this time of year enable new blood to be bought in to improve the flock quality. Late October sees the final gather of the year.
Ewe lambs that are to be kept as breeding ewes are sent away to lowland farms on “tack” over the winter months. Ewes ready to breed are selected to go with different rams.
With lambs being sold regularly, and all the tups (breeding rams) turned out to the ewes it is time for general farm maintenance.
New hedges are planted and ones that have been planted in previous years need to be laid creating shelter for the ewes and wildlife.
Know where your food comes from
Cambrian Mountains lambs spend their lifetime in the Cambrian Mountains region of Wales. Sold only when in season, from late June to December, they are free to roam and graze. Traditional farming methods affect the texture and flavour of the meat: the distinctive flavour is developed as the lambs are allowed to grow and develop naturally at a slow pace on the hills.
Cambrian Mountains lamb is fully traceable back to the farm. Producers and suppliers work together to ensure a full season’s supply of top quality Cambrian Mountains lamb.
Farm Assured Welsh Livestock
Our producers are Farm Assured Welsh Livestock approved, and adhere to the highest standards of animal welfare.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the industry-led organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat.
Protected Geographic Indication
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status was granted to Welsh Lamb in November 2003 by the European Commission. The PGI status identifies the origin and unique qualities of Welsh Lamb.
Cambrian Mountains Lamb
Inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, the Cambrian Mountains Lamb brand is a mark of superior quality.
- The lamb produced fulfils the requirements for PGI Welsh Lamb
- Lambs are born, reared and slaughtered within Wales
- Carcasses are matured for a minimum of 21 days
- Available from late June to January
- Carcasses are E – O conformation and 2 – 3H fat class
- An alternative market for finished hill lambs from the Cambrian Mountains (12 — 18kg)
- Royalties from sales are used to develop the Cambrian Mountains Lamb Community Interest Company to help us better serve the farmers and community of the Cambrian Mountains Region
- Inspired by the work of HRH The Prince of Wales
The Cambrian Mountains
The Cambrian Mountains occupy around 10% of Wales and are one of the most sparsely populated areas in England and Wales. They are known for their desolate, historic landscape and for their natural habitats. Land cover is dominated by a mix of blanket bog, heath and semi-natural grassland, and a high proportion of the area is recognized to be of European importance for nature conservation.
The Cambrian Mountains are one of Wales’ most important areas for nature, with 17% of the land designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Almost 90% of the SSSI area is also designated under the European Habitats Directive as a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area, or both. Documentary evidence shows the Mountains have been managed with extensively grazed livestock for at least 800 years, while the pollen record and archaeological evidence suggests that this way of managing land has been important in the area since the Bronze Age.
Today the economy is highly dependent upon agriculture, forestry and tourism. Having long been an inspiration to poets, writers and artists, the region features as the beautiful but bleak back drop for the highly successful S4C / BBC 4 series Hinterland.
Slideshow about the Cambrian Mountains