By Farmer reporter

North Wales sheep farmer Aled Roberts has no doubts about his most essential farm tool – his ATV covers over 5,000 miles each year.

“I need to traverse 7,000 acres of common moorland around Ruabon mountain to manage our flock. I couldn’t do it without an ATV,” says Aled of his trusty Yamaha Grizzly 700.

As farm manager at the 1,000-acre Onnen Fawr Farm near Wrexham, he is in charge of a flock of 1,300 Texel and Welsh ewes and replacements.

All prime lambs are butchered on site at Stanley Jones butchers which has been trading from the farm since 1940.

“We have a busy online business too called Farm & Fork too which means that we need to find in excess of 50 lambs every week of the year,” he says.

The Welsh ewes graze the mountain as a hefted flock between April and October.

“It is a big job to gather them up three times a year and bring them back down to the farm,” he says. “There are areas of the land that I can only reach with my ATV.

The weight of the fully laden sheep feeder can be managed by his Yamaha, which has a powerful 686cc SOHC 4-stroke engine and switchable two- or four-wheel drive.

“It can tow 600 kilos and I can have 140 kilos on the bike itself too. The Yamaha also has power steering which makes manoeuvring it on tricky terrain much easier,” he says.

“I particularly like this model because, on the occasion that I have to carry a ewe on the front rack, I can hold her and the steering remains light enough for me to drive the ATV.”

The moorland is challenging terrain with two-foot high heather that can conceal some surprising obstacles.

“I often can’t see rocks that are covered by the heather. I also have the added hazard of craters created by bombs dropped during the Second World War,” he says.

To confuse Luftwaffe pilots sent to bomb Liverpool, lights were situated on the moors to draw their bombs. The result is a heavily pitted landscape.

“I can see Liverpool from the top of the moors and on a clear day I can see Blackpool,” remarks Mr Roberts.

With a locking differential and a winch being standard equipment on the Yamaha, Mr Roberts is able to meet the challenge of staying mobile on the moors.

“It can be very wet, and the diff lock really helps if a wheel is stuck in a bog. I am often on my own, so the winch is essential if I need to free the ATV,” he says.

The Welsh ewes lamb mostly outside, so Mr Roberts has the unenviable task of catching each lamb and number them up to prevent any mixing. This means he covers thousands of miles during lambing season.

The Texel ewes lamb inside, and at a 200 per cent scanning percentage.

“There are a lot of lambs to carry out, so we have had a bespoke trailer made to carry ewes and lambs out behind the Yamaha,” he says.

The trailer can fit up to eight large ewes in the centre and racks on the side hold a further 16 lambs.

And now is his busiest time of year.

“We lamb from March 10 through to May 10 and there is no way that I could be with the flock, condition scoring and helping problem ewes without the ATV. I have done nearly 10,000 miles on this one and it’s not yet two years old. It is a vital piece of kit that I couldn’t be without.”