Women are key to the future of farming – and there's never been a better time to get involved, according to two farming champions.

Red meat production is traditionally associated with men, but there are many inspiring women who are making their mark in the industry and are passionate about its future.

They say International Women’s Day is a fitting day to celebrate women, challenge stereotypes and mark their achievements.

Female farming champion Mali Davies, who farms on the outskirts of Tregaron, spoke to meat marketing body Hybu Cig Cymru.

Pontargamddwr, which borders the Cors Caron National Nature Reserve, a vast area of wetland filling the broad valley of the River Teifi, has been in the Davies family since 2000. Here Mali and her mum Sian and sister Gwawr, look after 50 cattle and 300 sheep.

Mali, aged 20, studies rural enterprise and land management at Harper Adams University and is in her second year. Farming has been her passion from an early age and she enjoys the day-to-day work and variety that farming brings.

She said: “I’ve been brought up on the farm and have always helped with anything that needed doing alongside my mum and dad. It’s in my blood and something I really enjoy doing. It’s been my passion from the start and I really enjoy being with the livestock and ensure they’re in good health. Being outdoors is great and I love the machinery work too. It’s the variety and no day is the same.”

As a woman in the industry Mali believes that women today have the opportunity to pursue their dreams within the industry and that it’s important for women have an equal opportunity in the agriculture sector.

“Now is a good time for women to have a career in farming and I would encourage anyone to do so if that’s what they want to do. Women have a different perception about farming to men. We share our ideas with each other and work alongside each other,” she said.

Mali is determined to breed good quality sheep that produce a high-end product for the market, but high cost of production and trying to make a profit for the business can be a challenge.

“I try to ensure we breed stock that are performing to their highest capabilities and that they can rear lambs as cheaply as possible. We also make sure that our grasslands are kept in really good condition so that we get the best out of the grass and produce meat from the grassland and costs are kept low and we have higher profits,” she said.

Walking the fields, Mali adds: “The opportunities for women now are great. We can do the same as men can do. There has been an increase in women playing an active role on the farm and are we are getting appreciated more.

“Women are being taken more seriously. From our point of view and talking to my friends at college, I feel the imbalance has been addressed, however, for the future of farming to prevail, both men and women need to unify and recognise that we are equal.”

With lambing well underway, Mali has a busy time ahead - regularly checking the sheep and making sure the bedding is kept fresh for the livestock.

“I have been very lucky and my family and friends have been very supportive through the years. Farming is such an important sector. It’s the backbone of our rural communities, it provides jobs and keeps our culture alive. I am concerned about what the future might hold for farming and I want to make sure we have a sector for our women in the future – food production needs both.”

Further north, multi-tasking mother, full time farmer and diversifier Sioned Thomas-Jones is one of many generations of her family to farm at Nant-y-Gaseg near Machynlleth.

In partnership with her parents, Huw and Eleri, she runs a flock of around 960 head of speckle faced, Welsh Tregaron type and crossbred ewes, selling the finished lambs at the local livestock market. They also keep 30 suckler cows and sell their Limousin X store cattle, again at the local market, where they recently made history in the ring selling their 17-month Lim X steer for a centre record of £2,010.

Sioned, 37, said: “I had a keen interest in farming from a very young age and have worked here on the farm for nearly twenty years. I enjoy being out on the hills gathering the sheep, looking down on the Dyfi Valley – it really is heaven on earth for me.

“My passion is sheep work. Shearing and lambing, I love it! Lambing in particular is a special time of year, there is nothing better than welcoming new life onto the farm, and I enjoy sharing that experience with my 9-year-old son, Huw Ifan.”

Sioned says that she has never felt any different for being female and has been wholeheartedly accepted in the farming community.

“I strongly feel that women play an equal role in the industry and have many female friends who work on farms.

“Women have always been critical on the farm but traditionally may not have been given the credit they deserve. Despite being quite old-fashioned here – we enjoy coming into the house to a nice meal on the table after a long day on the hills, usually prepared by my mother, who also plays a crucial role in the business – it gives me great pride to see that things have now changed, women are proving that it’s not just an industry for men.

“I’m involved in all aspects of the farm – from handling the animals to the big machinery – it's what I enjoy!”

She is keen to encourage women to pursue a career in farming. “I think the future for women in agriculture looks bright. If you are passionate about farming, dedicated and enjoy what you do like I do, then my only advice would be to go for it!”

Speaking about the important role of women in the industry and at HCC, Anne Dunn, HCC’s Communications and External Affairs Lead, said: “Women have seen a real change in attitudes over the years and there is more support out there now. However, we mustn’t shy away from conversations around equality and providing opportunities for young women to enter the industry.

“HCC employs some phenomenal women and works with many others in the sector – on International Women’s Day we are honoured to acknowledge the important role they play on farms across Wales and the tremendous contributions women make to family life, rural businesses, the red meat industry and our economy.”