A FARM-BASED feed mill in the Carmarthenshire countryside is proof that out of adversity can come opportunity.

When foot and mouth struck in 2001, brothers Jim and Bill Lloyd had 4,000 tonnes of livestock feed clamped in their yard at Pencefn Farm. They had bought the feed months earlier as fodder for their lamb finishing enterprise.

Livestock movements were abruptly halted and, unable to buy lambs, the Lloyds found themselves with a mountain of fodder and no mouths to feed.

It was a challenging time, but they quickly spotted an opportunity to sell the feed to other sheep farmers who were carrying additional stock.

And so Pencefn Feeds was established, a business that now supplies UK and Irish sheep farmers with 12,000 tonnes of feed a year.

The company operates from the family farm, a 178-hectare upland holding near Tregaron.

Feed is blended in a purposebuilt shed part-funded by a grant that was available to rural businesses after the foot-and-mouth crisis. The feed, a combination of brewer’s grain, citrus peel, pressed pulp and minerals, is sealed in airtight 750kg bags to maintain its freshness.

To accommodate the lorries that make deliveries and collections 24 hours a day, road access had to be improved.A2.2-mile tarmac road was created, with the construction work largely done by Lloyd Brothers Construction Ltd, the construction business Jim and Bill created.

As one diversification has followed another, the farm is one of many businesses the brothers run, but it remains central in raising finance for the subsequent enterprises.

“We have been able to raise funding using the farm as an asset and this has enabled us to drive the business forward,” Bill explained.

That business now includes a retail park at Tregaron, and planning permission was recently secured on 15 acres for residential development and a health centre.

They have also bought a hotel in Aberystwyth where they employ 20 people.

It takes courage and vision to grow a business and diversify at this pace, and Bill and Jim credit their parents, Bill and Lynne, for nurturing their entrepreneurship.

“They encouraged us to believe that we could do anything we put our minds to,” said Bill.

Farming remains one of the most personally rewarding aspects of the business for the pair. They finish 25,000 lambs annually for the Dunbia abattoir at nearby Llanybydder.

The lambs, sourced from markets in Wales and the north of England, are finished on Pencefn feed within six weeks of purchase.

Lambs get an average daily ration of 3kg of feed per head, with daily liveweight gains averaging 0.5kg.

The Lloyds have been supplying the abattoir at Llanybydder since 1960 and have a good relationship with Dunbia.

Bill said: “We talk to the buyers almost on a daily basis.Wenegotiate the size and price of the lambs in June before we start selling in July.”

He takes responsibility for buying, basing his purchasing decisions on carcass weights. He aims for a lamb that will produce an R3L or R3H carcass.

The Lloyds also run an organic flock of 800 mule ewes which are crossed with Texels.

The brothers have no plans to expand the farming enterprise by purchasing more land as the capital cost, they believe, is too high for the return it generates.

“We don’t want to buy more land because it is too expensive, we always do the opposite to everyone else,” said Bill.

But the mill business is an enterprise with the potential for more growth. Eighty per cent of the feed is collected directly from the farm depot, and the Lloyds insist that payment is made upon collection.

As the enterprise has grown it has given the business the power to negotiate when buying.

“The bigger you are, the greater your purchasing power,” said Bill.

Feed is premixed in the summer as the business would otherwise be unable to keep pace with deliveries and orders in the winter.

“We mix and bag 100 tonnes a day,” said Jim, who manages the mill.

When the business was first established, keeping the feed fresh was a challenge because of its moist consistency. But that hurdle was overcome through the use of sealed bags.

“This was a big step forward for us, it means it can be kept for months,” added Jim.

“The feed is a perishable product, but it becomes stable when it is sealed in bags. When a farmer opens the bag the feed is fresh, it is a complete ration for finishing lambs.”

A dry feed is also produced and sold in 600kg bags.

The brothers have come a long way since they received their first feed delivery.

“We only bought 15 tonnes because we couldn’t afford to fill the lorry,” Jim recalled.

At the heart of their business philosophy has been adaptability.

“You have got to be fluid in business,” said Bill.