I left school to join my father on the family farm in 1960. Though I was academic by nature and enjoyed writing in particular, father was seriously ill, and it was what only sons did in those days. My main responsibility was caring for the dairy herd, while he recovered enough to manage the sheep flock. Unfortunately my father became ill again and after a few years he died in 1976, when I was 32 yrs old. By then I was a partner in the business, which is still called TE Davies and Son, and we had given up selling milk. Our herd of 60 cows was too small, and we decided to switch to a beef and sheep enterprise (plus chickens). Around the same time, I began involvement in public affairs. But I always gave priority to the farm business from late Feb-early May to take personal charge of the lambing/calving season. Very hard work but I loved it. If it wasn't for my colostomy, I would quite like to go back to it. We had about 900 ewes and up to 125 suckler cows. And for all but about 5 yrs we lambed outside - and I always worked the night shift.
The above is all by way of context. I know what its like to look after sheep in rough weather. And it doesn't come much rougher than we've seen over the last few weeks. Except in the incredible winter of 1963, when it was much worse and much longer - but crucially the big slow and drifting was earlier in the winter. I've spent days digging sheep out of ten ft snow drifts - and having to give up on lots, just collecting the carcases after the thaw. Its whats been happening this year.
Over the last two weeks we have watched some heartbreaking scenes on our television screens. And I've talked to hill sheep farmers who are going through desperate times. Wondered what I should do - being an MP representing many farmers who have suffered great financial loss. Agriculture is devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, and theoretically nothing to do with me. And I would have rather left it at that - except that some hill farmers from Montgomeryshire feel very let down by what they describe as the attitude of the Welsh Gov't Minister, whom they tell me has seemed very dismissive of the problems they face. Not making a political point, but its what I'm being told.
I just think I want to raise the issue at Westminster, even if it is devolved. I've asked Phill on our first day back after Easter (Monday) to put a bid to the Back Bench Business Committee for a debate on the impact of recent weather conditions on upland sheep farmers. It might not make much practical difference but I sense its important to show that MPs understand the scale of the disaster in the hills. Unfortunately there is no PMQs this week. I'm sure Mr Speaker would have allowed me to raise the issue. It will have to be week after next. And I will ask the Leader of the House on Thurs morn to programme an urgent debate. All I will want to do is make sure MPs understand what's happened. I could be the only MP who has experience of digging sheep out of ten foot snow drifts. I have also arranged an opportunity for any sheep farmers who want to let me know the scale of the disaster at Welshpool Livestock Market week Monday. I think their words will carry more resonance than my 50 yr old memories. Its been a hell of a tragedy, and its important that the nation knows of its scale and the pain its caused to our farmers.