Objective 3: Improve the sustainability of high nature value traditional farming systems

3a – Elan Hay Meadows

Over the years the number of hay meadows on Elan have declined because of low yields of fodder. A grant scheme will be developed to encourage tenants to restore old hay meadows and establish new ones.  The high landscape value of hay meadows in full bloom will be of enormous benefit to nature and will be a sight worth seeing by visitors to Elan.

3b – Elan Rhos Hay

Rhos hay production on the open hill, which is the cutting and baling of molinia for use as bedding and feed was a traditional farming practice years ago but it is virtually extinct in Wales today. The practice has benefits for nature by ensuring greater diversity of management on the open hill and can also have economic benefits for the farmer if a suitable use can be found for the cut hay.  A small grant scheme will be established to encourage rhos hay production whilst different uses will be investigated in order to develop a better economic benefit for the product.

3c – Elan Ram Scheme

Elan already has its own sheep breed characteristics which have evolved over generations of breeding and hefting. Changes in agricultural policy and market condition have led to changes in management practices that put the unique qualities of the breed at risk. The aim with this project is to develop a cooperative sheep breeding scheme amongst Elan farmers to ensure that only approved breeding stock with Elan type qualities of hardness and hefting instinct are used in their flocks.

3d – Elan Cattle Grazing

Traditionally, small-scale cattle keeping formed a key part of farming in Elan, but today, only a handful of farms continue this practice. We know that having cattle grazing extensively on the open hill and on some enclosed habitats is hugely beneficial for nature – helping to maintain an open sward where a host of different plants, fungi and animals can thrive. We want to encourage Elan farmers to carry on keeping cattle, to keep more cattle and to graze cattle on key habitats where they can be most beneficial for nature. This project will support farmers to do this by helping to overcome some of the barriers that exist to cattle farming.

3e – Elan Wethers

Wethers - castrated male sheep were once traditionally kept as a key part of the mountain flock in the Elan area. Wethers are tougher than the ewes and are able to guide the flock to safety or to find food in the hard winter months. For this reason they are known locally as ‘the kings of the mountain’. Recently, the lack of a defined market for wethers has seen the loss of this type of animal from our hills. However, wether meat is delicious and in this project we will pilot its promotion through outlets such as Elan’s visitor centre. The project will see if sustainably produced wether meat production could become a component of Elan’s farming systems and local farming culture once again.

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