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On-farm wool press generates big savings for sheep breeder
18
Jul '08
An on-farm wool press is making big savings in time and labour for a north Wales sheep flock. Bedwyr Jones, who runs 3000 Welsh Mountain ewes on 3000 acres in the Snowdonia National Park, says the cost of the wool press will be re-cooped within three years.

The flock at Gwastadanas, Caernarfon – which also grazes a further 700 acres on Anglesey – runs on land up to the summit of Mount Snowdon at over 3000ft.

Bedwyr Jones, chairman of the British Wool Marketing Board's Joint Welsh regional committee, first saw the wool press at work during shearing trips to New Zealand.

The British Wool Marketing Board imported several wool presses three years ago and Bedwyr decided to take one on loan to see what impact it could have on the handling and transportation costs of his annual clip.

“That was in 2006 and it has certainly made a big difference,” said Bedwyr who subsequently decided to buy a wool press in partnership with his father M Jones and Co, Ysbyty Ifan, Betws y Coed and his father-in-law's family who farm as Meirion and Rhian Pritchard and Sons, Nant Peris, Llanberis.

The wool press now handles 23 tonnes of wool from the three flocks each year.

Newly shorn fleeces are wrapped and then put into the wool sheet which is fitted to the framework of the press.

“We can get 70-90 fleeces into each sheet before we activate the press and compact the fleeces into a single bale weighing 150-160kg,” says Bedwyr who runs the farm with his wife Helen.

Bedwyr says the bales are tight and well packed and take up a lot less room to store on the farm.

“The clip takes up far less room and can be stored more easily. I reckon that within three years we'll have paid for the press simply because of the savings we can make on transport.”

Previously wool from the Gwastadanas flock was traditionally packed into sheets. Some was collected by the British Wool Marketing Board but the rest was delivered by Bedwyr to the depot at Porthmadog.

“Now storing the wool on farm is much easier and I can deliver my entire clip in one trip to the depot. With three of us sharing the £6000, the cost of the press will be covered by savings made within three years.”

The wool press can be run off electricity or on tractor oil if there is no power available.

Just over half the Jones' flock is put to Bluefaced Leicester tups, although this year 700 ewes were run with New Zealand Romney tups with the aim of producing half-bred breeding females.

The intention is to retain some of the half-bred females to establish a new prime-lamb enterprise based on a low-cost grass-based system by capitalising on the hardiness of the Romney.

“We ran ten New Zealand Romney rams with a group of 700 ewes and they scanned at 167%. Lambing went well and the lambs have been very vigorous. So far so good,” says Bedwyr.

The farm also carried 180 suckler cows and holds an annual on-farm sale of Signet recorded home-bred Welsh Mountain rams in October.

The British Wool Marketing Board

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