An eagerness to learn new skills and knowledge is helping mother and son Dianna and Iestyn Spary to continually improve their livestock farming enterprise and build a financially sustainable business fit for the future. 

Technical expertise and good business sense are not qualities the Sparys lack since embarking on an impressive number of Farming Connect workshops, covering a range of animal health and welfare topics. 

“It’s been an amazing opportunity, we have learned so much that we can apply within the day to day running of our farm and herd, and we can draw on that knowledge as we look at developing new enterprises and diversifications,’’ says Dianna. 

She is the fifth generation of her family to farm at Goytre Farm at New Church West, Chepstow, Iestyn the sixth. 

Together they farm 110 hectares, running a Hereford-cross beef suckler herd and also rearing beef cattle purchased as baby calves, including more recently British Blues, taking these through to slaughter. 

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

This is where the Farming Connect workshops have been so incredibly valuable, says Dianna. 

“You are never too old to learn, things are changing all the time. If we hadn’t got involved in attending the workshops, we would never have known about some of those new ways of doing things.’’ 

From learning how to maximise suckler cow productivity and protecting youngstock health to understanding diseases such as Johne’s and bovine TB, the animal health and welfare training workshops have been “enormously valuable’’, she adds. 

The pair have tapped into Farming Connect accredited training courses covering areas such as calf management, health and housing, body condition scoring and safe use of veterinary medicines. 

“You name it, we have done it,’’ says Dianna.

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

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

“We now monitor cattle weights more closely and have introduced different ways of feeding,’’ Dianna explains. 

“We have also been revamping all the cattle sheds and have a couple of new ones that will be going up. 

“We’ve also invested in calf jackets and if there are any drops in weights, we are more responsive with feed intakes, little things like that.’’ 

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

Through the Farming Connect Advisory Service, they have received specialist veterinary advice on their Herd Health Plan with a focus on incoming stock and biosecurity. They have also had guidance on soil health through the soil clinic. 

The Sparys largely use traditional farming methods at Goytre Farm where they have several hay meadows.


All feed is produced on-farm. “By doing everything in-house we know exactly what we are feeding and that’s important to us,’’ says Dianna. 

That distinctiveness, which sets them apart from some of the more mainstream farming systems, has given them the confidence to consider establishing a diversification into meat box sales, what Dianna describes as a ‘farm to fork’ approach. 

Working with a local butcher who has an abattoir licence, they hope to do everything on-site, from slaughter through to hanging the carcass for 28 days, and then selling cuts direct to the consumer. 

“We have also spoken to a chef who is going to produce some recipe cards for us to include in the boxes along with a bit of history of where the meat has come from,’’ says Dianna. 

Another future project could be converting stone barns in the farmyard to holiday accommodation. 

To help focus their minds on their plans, the Sparys will get guidance at a Farming Connect diversification surgery; they have also signed up for a ‘planning a diversification’ training course and will attend a ‘Dos and Don’ts of Diversification’ event in the coming weeks. 

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

His customer base is largely farms with smaller acreages with crops that require harvesting or spraying. 

Farming Connect has helped with this process too as Iestyn has gained his Level 2 Award in the Safe Use of Pesticides (PA1) and Safe Application of Pesticides Using Vehicle mounted Boom Sprayer Equipment (PA2). 

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

This is where Farming Connect has again helped; through the animal health workshops, he has covered modules advising on the prevention of lambing losses and lameness, improving lamb performance post-weaning and parasite controls. 

Dianna says the opportunities available through Farming Connect have really helped to drive the family farming business forward. 

“We have a good relationship with our local Farming Connect development officer Lisa Powell, she has been brilliant in giving us advice on which courses and workshops are right for us and signing us up for those,’’ she says.

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