Four members of staff from Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor’s Glynllifon campus recently appeared in the Daily Post’s ‘On the Grapevine’ feature for the week commencing 5 March 2018, and were asked to answer the following questions:

Monday: What is the likely effect of Brexit on agriculture and the environment and how can we best prepare for it?

Tuesday: How do technology and 'precision farming' benefit the rural economy?  Give some examples.

Wednesday: What do you think should be done about the increasing problem of dogs worrying sheep?

Thursday: How would an all-Wales 'nitrogen-vulnerable zone' impact land-based industries and fishing?

Friday:  If you won a fortune on the lottery what would you spend it on?

Lecturers Pryderi Hughes, Elin Haf Jones, Anna Budesha and Andrew Williamson

took part and were photographed in several locations across Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor’s campus at Glynllifon for the feature.

Here are the answers they gave to the above questions:

Pryderi, who teaches Engineering at Glynllifon said:

  • Clearly, Brexit will affect Agriculture and the environment. Unfortunately none of us have a crystal ball therefore the challenge now for land-based industries is to adapt, prepare and plan for the future, in exactly the same way as all other businesses will have to do. Agriculture will be dependant on future trade deals regarding produce export and if these do not materialise as expected then we will have to adapt and diversify accordingly.
  • Now is an exciting time in land-based industries regarding technology and its uses. Everything is now at our fingertips with mobile telephones and tablets etc and at long last the rural areas are starting to see a slow but steady increase and development in broadband and mobile data coverage. Regarding precision farming technology, this has taken over the machinery world for many years now with GPS, auto steer, field and yield mapping being normal and expected functions to only list but a few.
  • This problem obviously does not lie with the dogs but unfortunately their owners. It is the responsibility of all dog owners to ensure that their animals are kept on a lead at all times when out and about in the countryside. We definitely need to educate the public in order to overcome this problem.
  • Obviously this would have an impact on the industry and therefore all possible steps and avenues should be considered regarding managing the higher risk areas first and ways to reduce the risks to the environment. It’s happening in other areas of the country and all of us within the industry need to take responsibility over the matter and act in a proactive and responsible manner such as improved storage facilities and management of nitrates sources such as slurry.
  • The possible list could be endless but it would have to include a few luxuries such as a holiday, maybe a new car and tarmacing the whole drive up to the house!!!!

Elin, who lectures in agriculture, said:

  • Having being brought up on an upland farm, I believe that Brexit could provide new opportunities for both agriculture and the environment to work collaboratively. Upland farms provide/deliver environmental benefits through their involvement in Agri-environment schemes. Based on the current prices of light lambs, upland farmers would find it very challenging to deliver these environmental benefits and sustain their production levels without the aid of these subsidies. The aid of subsidies to support the collaboration of agriculture and the environment is therefore vital in securing the future of upland farms. Having said that the best strategy for all farmers in preparing for Brexit is to assess their current level of productivity and profitability in order to increase the viability of their business.
  • Technology and Precision Farming within rural industries facilitates the development and efficiency of businesses. The use and benefits of technology and ‘precision farming’ such as GPS, Geomapping, Data Analysis etc is better understood and has become more affordable, especially with the aid of grants from Farming Connect via the Welsh Government, and I strongly believe that farmers should take full advantage of these opportunities.
  • It is vital that all dog owners understand that farmed land will have grazing animals present and that farmers depend on their livestock as a source of income. Disturbance from dogs can have a detrimental effect on their health and welfare, as well as their ability to produce high quality meat and rear their young. Dog owners need to be educated about the social and financial impact a ‘dog attack’ can have on farmers.   
  • Over the last 50 years farmers have used organic and manufactured fertiliser to sustain their production levels. Excessive usage of these nitrate sources have had a detrimental effect on the environment. An all-Wales Nitrogen Vulnerable Zone would have significant impact on farmers financially in terms of having to adapt and invest in better slurry/manure storage to comply with the closed period for applying manure/slurry/manufactured fertiliser on their land within an NVZ. But careful/better nutrient management could lead to a reduction in fertiliser cost and benefit the environment at the same time.  
  • I’d be ecstatic. I would use the money to go travelling to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Thailand for a year. But I would also save some of the money to buy a house and give some money to various charities.    

Anna, who lectures in equine and land-based industries said:

  • Brexit will increase hardship for farmers by losing the EU market, it accounts for more than 50% of their exports
  • Precision farming methods can benefit the rural economy by increasing the quantity and quality of agricultural output whilst using less input such as water, energy, fertilisers, pesticides etc. This will save on costs and hopefully reduce environmental impact whilst producing better and more food. An example of this would be: instead of being governed by timelines of working under favourable weather conditions, farmers can follow automatic machine guidance with GPS. This will cause a reduction in soil compaction and reduce the carbon imprint.
  • Although we want to encourage people to get out and about with their dogs, the public needs to be aware of the growing cost of this to Farmers. We need to educate the public on the consequences of their dogs chasing sheep, even if that dog doesn’t actually bite. Signs within veterinary clinics and animal establishments could help raise awareness. Some Farmers could help themselves by putting up signs explaining there is livestock in the field. Farmers should report all incidents so that accurate data can be collected to help tighten the law on the protection of livestock. Sheep worrying is a far bigger problem than is officially recorded.
  • In industry, Farmers could have an economic loss due to the costs involved in storing greater quantities of slurry. If this is not possible, reducing their cow numbers would also mean a financial loss. The NVZ could impact on farm productivity. This would benefit fisheries as water quality is of great importance to the function of aquatic eco systems. A reduction in nutrient pollution in Wales will benefit the biodiversity levels and function of natural systems.
  • If I won the lottery I would set up a program to get more young people involved in sport, with the aim of reducing mental health issues.

And I would buy chalet in Zermatt, Switzerland, so that I could enjoy the mountains with friends and family.

Andrew, who teaches Forestry and Countryside Management at Glynllifon, said:

  • Leaving the EU provides us with an opportunity to create a more profitable, diverse, environmental,and vibrant rural economy. The key first step in seizing this opportunity is to create a truly integrated land use policy in which forestry and farming are able to work together for a flourishing rural economy. Forestry is a very profitable industry, and enabling farmers and landowners to participate in it would help secure farm incomes and farming communities in the long term.
  • Technology is helping the forest-products industry produce more with less: less waste, less pollution, less impact on the environment and less raw material input. One example would be the use of Biotechnology in tree genetics. Biotechnology is an important component in helping the forest industry increase productivity of modern forests through the development of trees more tolerant to pests, diseases, and chemicals, which have a detrimental impact on forest health.
  • I think that there should be better signage along country paths, informing dog walkers that by law, they must control their dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. I really don’t think that the public are aware that they are committing an offence by not doing so. Dog walkers should take particular care that their dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
  • NVZs would protect and enhance our environment due to reduction in nitrates in our water systems, such as our lakes and rivers. The knock-on effect would be a positive increase in biodiversity, a cleaner countryside – creating a better environment for locals and tourists all round.
  • Hmmm that’s a tough question. I think first of all I’d have to give some to my family as I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. I’d also donate £100k to the forestry department here in Glynllifon and then I’d like to buy a big country estate somewhere in Wales with plenty of woodland so my son can train to become a forester.

Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor offers a range of courses and qualifications. If you need more information on any of our courses, please visit the courses section of the website at www.gllm.ac.uk/courses or contact the course advice line on 01341 422 827.