A desire to learn new skills and knowledge is helping mum Dianna Spary and son Iestyn continuously improve their livestock farming enterprise and build a financially sustainable business fit for the future.

 Both are not short of technical expertise and good business sense since they began undertaking an impressive number of Farming Connect workshops, covering a range of topics relating to animal health and welfare.

 "It's been an amazing opportunity; we've learned so much we can apply in the day-to-day running of our farm and herd, and we can draw on that knowledge as we look at developing new initiatives and diversification plans," said Dianna.

 She is the fifth generation in her family to farm at Goetre Farm in New Church West, Chepstow, and Iestyn is the sixth.

 They farm 110 hectares together, run a Hereford cross beef suckler herd and also raise beef cows purchased as baby calves, including more recently British Blue cows, taking these through for slaughter.

 Although they have been immersed in agriculture all their lives, they recognise that it is an ever-changing industry as research and new ideas are introduced and applied.

 "You're never too old to learn; Things change all the time. If we hadn't taken part in the workshops, we would never have known about some of those new ways of doing things.''

 "Name you a course – we've done it," said Dianna.

They were announced as the winners of the Farming Link Animal Health and Welfare Award 2023 at the Lantra Cymru Awards in January.

 The knowledge they gained through Farming Connect workshops has helped inform changes in the business.

 "We are now monitoring cattle weight more closely, and we have introduced different ways of feeding," explains Dianna.

 "Also, we've been actively revamping all the cattle sheds, and we've got a couple of new ones that will be built.

 "We've also invested in jackets for calves, and if there are any weight reductions, we're more responsive with forage intake, and little things like that.''

 Iestyn has also benefited from a number of sheep-related topics offered through the animal health workshops.

 The Spary family mainly use traditional farming methods at Goetre Farm, where they have a number of hay meadows.

Working with a local butcher with an abattoir licence, they hope to do everything on site, from slaughter through to hanging the carcass for 28 days, and then sell pieces of meat directly to the customer.

 "We've also spoken to a chef who's going to produce recipe cards for us to include in the boxes along with a little history of where the meat has come from,'' dianna said.

 Converting stone barns in the farmyard into holiday accommodation could be another project in the future.

 To help focus their minds on their plans, the Spary family will be given guidance in a Farming Connect diversification surgery; they have also signed up for a 'planning for diversification' training course and will be attending a 'Things that should be done and things that should not be done in diversification' event in the coming weeks.

 For Iestyn, another form of diversification, namely to agricultural contracting, has provided a secondary income stream.

 Farms with smaller acres with crops that need to be harvested or sprayed are primarily its customer base.

 Farming Connect has also helped with this process, as Iestyn has won its Level 2 Award in Safe Use of Pesticides (PA1) and Safe Use of Pesticides Using Vehicle-mounted Power Spraying Equipment (PA2).

 He also offers field maintenance and fencing and works on a nearby farm during lambing season.

 This is where Farming Connect has helped again; Through the animal health workshops, he has covered modules that provide advice on preventing lambing and lameness losses, improving lamb performance after weaning and parasite control.