AN award-winning Pembrokeshire farmer shows off his entrepreneurial spirit with a new vodka made from sheep’s milk.
Dairy sheep farmer Bryn Perry recently won the prestigious Brynle Williams Memorial Award, which recognizes the achievements of a young farmer who got into farming through Farming Connect’s Venture program.
Having set up collaborations with a number of equally ambitious farmers in West Wales, Bryn and Becca, through a range of Farming Connect support services, are already turning milk into a range of specialty Welsh sheep’s milk cheeses” in the style of feta, halloumi, blue and manchego and have recently launched Ewenique Spirits, their own brand of sheep’s whey vodka.
“We worked closely with our partner distillery to try out various techniques and formulations to create the perfect drink,” Bryn said.
“After many attempts, we found the perfect clean and fresh vodka.”
He describes it as having “a smooth onset with a refreshing, zesty finish”.
Bryn, who comes from a non-farm background, credits Farming Connect for fostering many of his business and farming skills.
Bryn and his partner Becca Morris, both in their early thirties, raise a flock of around 120 East Frisian ewes – a breed renowned for their milk quality – on a small council-owned farm, Fferm Wernllwyd, near from Haverfordwest, where they moved in early 2021.
“Inspired by consumer demand, we have doubled the size of the original herd we originally purchased at an on-farm dispersal sale and have recently begun seeking financing for a new feed processing unit that will bring us will transform sheep’s milk into a range of Welsh cheeses and dairy products from the farm,” says Bryn.
The sheep milking industry in the UK is still relatively new, but this entrepreneurial couple are capitalizing on this rapidly growing market in more ways than one.
“Essentially, we received tremendous support from Farming Connect, which not only helped me develop my skills as a businessperson and a sheep farmer, but also allowed us to create our first joint venture with the producers. well-known sheep milk producers Nick and Wendy Holtman, owner of Defaid Dolwerdd in Crymych.
“Today, with many more working partnerships under our belt, including two additional Ceredigion farmers who now supply us with sheep’s milk and an exciting link with a local distillery, we are confident that we have a future for both as dairy sheep farmers and independent food and beverage processors.
“My ultimate goal is to create a co-operative of Welsh farmers who have similar aspirations and to help each of us grow our respective businesses.”
The couple also thank the support of Food Center Wales who provided the training, technical know-how and processing facilities to turn sheep’s milk into lactose-free cheeses, ice creams and frozen milk.
Bryn grew up in a small Cotswold village and spent many student holidays helping local farmers with their summer crops.
After studying business management at university, he then worked for commercial franchising and recruitment operations in the UK and Canada.
Fate intervened when Bryn met Becca while they were both living and working in Southampton. Not only did he fall in love with Becca, an expert horse rider, but he also fell in love with Pembrokeshire, during the couple’s many trips to visit family in Moylegrove.
In early 2017 they moved to Wales, rented a flat near Becca’s parents and Bryn found employment on a large local dairy farm. He says this opportunity was crucial.
“The family I worked for taught me a lot, I gained invaluable experience in dairy farming and cattle management and their support and encouragement really inspired me.”
Bryn successfully applied for a municipal farmhouse rental in early 2020, although due to pandemic restrictions the couple didn’t actually move out until March 2021.
With guidance from his local Farming Connect Development Officer, Bryn requested a range of services for new entrants, including the advisory service, which led him to implement rotational grazing.
He has also registered as a “seeker” with Venture, the Farming Connect program that connects landowners looking to retire from farming with new entrants looking for a way in. .
“I met Nick and Wendy at a local farmers market and after many conversations we realized there could be many scale and efficiency benefits if we worked together,” he recalls.
Both families applied for fully funded mentoring, business planning and legal advice from Venture, which allowed them to successfully establish their joint venture, now in its second year.
Around the same time, Bryn was invited to join a Farming Connect “Business Bootcamp”, a short residential course designed to give like-minded individuals the confidence, skills and motivation to grow their career and build a successful land-based business.
“We had amazing and inspiring speakers and I was sure that with the right attitude and hard work, Becca and I could be running our own farming business within two years.”
In the summer of 2021, Bryn joined an online Farming Connect Agrisgôp group, finding it “extremely beneficial” to be in direct contact with other dairy sheep farmers not only from Wales but also from New Zealand and other countries. North America, all eager to share their knowledge and experience. .
He was also shortlisted for Farming Connect’s latest Agri Academy admission, winning the programme’s Business and Innovation challenge, after developing a business strategy for a diversified agricultural business in Derbyshire.
Demonstrating their commitment to innovation and sustainable breeding systems, Bryn and Becca also raise a herd of 19 alpacas which provide a helpful additional stream of income through the sale of offspring and fleeces.
“Alpacas also help deter predators like foxes from attacking the lambs, so they make a living in different ways.”
The couple recently changed their old twice-daily milking regime to a 12-point rapid exit sheep milking parlour, for a single morning milking.
“It not only frees up our time, but has other important benefits,” says Bryn, explaining that ewes have a 15% reduction in yield after switching to a once-a-day milking system, but they now produce better quality milk and more. lactations per ewe.
With everything produced, manufactured and mostly sold within a 30 mile radius, he is also keen on minimizing his carbon footprint.
Bryn and Becca, who now have a one-year-old daughter, admit to spending many anxious hours debating whether they could be successful full-time farmers in Wales, but neither has any regrets.
“I hope to help a newcomer or a young farmer by entering into a milking sharing agreement for a flock of winter dairy ewes as soon as possible.
“This is just the beginning and although we are only at the start of our journey, we are loving our new life and excited to see what the future holds.”