AHDB Beef & Lamb has recruited 12 producers who want to improve the performance of their livestock enterprise through Strategic Farms, part of AHDB’s wider farm excellence activity.
The 12 participating farms cover a range of farming systems and will be taking part for a minimum of two years. Each farm will be benchmarked using the AHDB whole-farm benchmarking service Farmbench and appropriate targets will be set for improving output and performance. Participating farms will be supported by AHDB experts and other specialist consultants to drive improvements in selected areas and will host two or three technical events each year to communicate the progress achieved.
On-farm events held throughout the course of Strategic Farms will offer producers a platform to share their progress and learnings through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.
To find out more about the Strategic Farms involved, view the map and profiles below.
Suckler beef and sheep farms
1. Edward Dean
Former ‘Tractor Driver of The Year’, Edward Dean joins as a Strategic Farm looking to improve the overall efficiency of his farm business. The 154ha farm in Cumbria has a flock of 300 commercial Texel ewes, eight pedigree Dutch Texels and a mix of nine rams. Edward Dean’s father used to run the farm as a dairy enterprise until 2001, when foot and mouth ended dairy production and a decision was made to change the focus to meat production. Now with 130 cows, four Limousin bulls, Edward sells his cows as stores at 12 months old through auction. By joining the network of farms, Edward is looking to increase the focus on herd health and start a screening and eradication scheme for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and Johne’s disease. With his Texel flock, Edward also wants to monitor body condition more closely to better control lamb size and improve ease of lambing.
2. David Monkhouse
Farming 110ha in county Durham, David Monkhouse is looking forward to receiving advice from experts to get the best out of his business. At Low Houselop Farm there are 300 crossed ewes, 250 Black faced ewes, nine rams, 80 pure and crossed Limousin cows and four bulls. To ensure he is up to date, David is hoping the programme will introduce him to new technologies that he hasn’t used before, as well as helping enhance his current practices. Improving grassland and soil management is another area of focus for David as he believes these are the cornerstone of any agricultural enterprise. With Brexit around the corner, David wants to ensure that his sheep enterprise is strong and prepared for any scenarios that the industry faces.
3. Guy Prudom
Working alongside his parents and one part-time member of staff, Guy Prudom currently rents 400ha near Whitby, North Yorkshire. With both arable and beef production on-farm, Guy’s current focus is on home produced feed using perennial ryegrass, crimped cereals, whole cropped beans and clover leys. The farm uses Simmental, Aberdeen Angus and Stabiliser bulls on the 190 plus suckler herd, with the majority of the progeny finished on-farm and the remaining sold as stores. By joining Strategic Farms, Guy hopes to increase his knowledge of herd genetics and feed management, whilst making improvements to his grassland management in order to maximise return per hectare. Guy acknowledges costs are still rising and, with the infrastructure nearly in place to allow rotational grazing, he now feels he needs to learn how to maximise grass utilisation to get the most from the system.
4. Ian Norbury
Farming 98ha in Cheshire, Ian Norbury is joining as a Strategic Farm to ensure he can continue to farm at a high standard and make his business more resilient. Working alongside his father, Ian stocks 70 Aberdeen Angus pedigree and cross-bred cattle, as well as two Angus bulls. He takes stock through to finishing, selling most into the deadweight market. Keeping up to date with technology is key for Ian as he enjoys demonstrating his farming techniques to others and helping people to learn where their food comes from. Having just started to measure grass, Ian is keen to improve and focus upon his grassland management techniques in order to save money. Farmer-to-farmer learning attracted Ian to Strategic Farms, as he would like to continue increasing his knowledge.
5. Joe Howard
Joe Howard’s family has been farming at Little Morton Farm, in north Nottinghamshire, since 1887. The farms core enterprise is vegetable production and conventional arable cropping, with grass in the rotation to promote soil health and nutrition. With 400ha of land down to grass, Joe stocks 330 Angus suckler cattle and finishes all his own progeny from forage as well as finishing 200 Angus cross dairy stores per year. By becomign a Strategic Farm, Joe is looking to find new techniques that will allow the farm to finish animals more consistently and accurately to meet target specifications at a younger age. Currently using less than 60kg of nitrogen per Ha per year, Joe is also keen to grow and utilise a greater tonnage of grass per Ha without increasing the use of nitrogen.
6. Mark Jelley
Mark Jelley has been managing his family’s beef enterprise since returning home from Harper Adams in 2002. Based in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, the family moved to the farm in 1920 and run a herd of 95 Hereford x Friesian cows, finishing all of the calves on farm. Following an outbreak of TB in 2017, suckler cow numbers have fallen by 20%. Mark is now looking to rebuild numbers and is taking this opportunity to start breeding his own replacements. The 200ha farm is currently part of AHDB Beef & Lamb’s ‘Connected Farm’ trial and, as a Strategic Farm Mark is hoping to be able to drive the experience gained from the project forward and discuss and share results with other producers.
7. David Barton
David Barton, of Manor Farm, Middle Duntisbourne Cirencester, is always looking for new ways to improve his suckler beef production. David brings over 35 years of experience to Strategic Farms from his time running the 103ha Cirencester-based farm. Focusing mainly on beef production, David currently farms 60 South Devon and Sussex X Salers cows and breeds his own replacements. Improving benchmarking on farm is a large focus area, as well as learning how to get the best from grass and forage. David hopes that being part a Strategic Farm will provide the opportunity to share information and engage with other farmers, which he thinks is often the best way to learn about different techniques and make improvements.
8. E H Holdstock
Based on the family farm in Kent, Verity Garrett is looking to improve grassland management and nutrition by joining the Strategic Farms. Based at Elbridge farm, E.H. Holdstock and son is a mixed livestock, arable, potato, and top-fruit farm, covering 620ha. The farm is home to 230 Sussex cows plus followers, six Sussex bulls, 100 Romney x Suffolk ewes, 80 Romney ewes and five rams. The farm’s Sussex herd is the second largest herd of this breed in the country and alongside their winter forage are fed on waste potatoes and arable bi-products. By becoming a strategic farm, Verity hopes to be able to produce more consistent carcases, as well as increasing the profitability of the livestock side of the business. With improvements already made to silage quality over the last year, grassland management is another key focus, as she wants to get the best out of the area they currently have.
Bertie Newman is the youngest farmer to become a Strategic Farm and is looking to increase his knowledge by learning from his peers. Having spent time travelling after college, Bertie is now back to work alongside his dad on the organic family farm in Dorset. Manor Farm boasts 610ha, made up of 565ha of grasses, 49ha of white clover and rye grass and 5ha of peas and barley. This year the farm has started to finish its own store cattle, as well as being home to 100 Aberdeen Angus and 40 Hereford cattle, and 1,200 ewes. By becoming a Strategic Farm, Bertie is looking to ensure that they now benchmark their profitability, while also improving their grassland management. This is now a key focus on farm as they want to be able to finish the cattle on a simple system using mainly grass.
10. John Haimes
John Haimes manages a holding of 230 ha in South Devon. Focusing on suckler beef production, he runs 100 cross bred cows, shared between three Blonde D’Aquitaine bulls, selling some weened calves but mostly store cattle at around 18 months old. John does not currently have a nutrition plan and, by participating in the programme, he is keen to get advice on grassland management and using concentrates more efficiently. John also wants to investigate more technical ways of choosing their breeding stock and other options for overwintering dry cows.
1. Tony Seals
Tony Seals, his father and nephew manage 135ha at Park Farm in Derbyshire. They farm arable crops as well as managing native and continental cattle. Tony particularly wants to improve his profit margins on finishing bulls through better feed efficiency and wants to reduce the mortality rate among his cattle. He would like to gain fresh insights from AHDB Beef & Lamb and feels it is always important to have an understanding of new techniques, which he is keen to apply in order to improve the farm business.
2. Clare Parnell & Philip Kent
Parnell & Kent is a family partnership in North Cornwall made up of Mike and Clare Parnell & nephew Philip Kent. They lamb 1000 ewes outdoors in April on a forage only system and take 200 British Blue X Friesian calves through from 2 weeks of age to slaughter. They applied to be a Strategic Farm because they want help to ensure their farm business is efficient and economically viable without reliance on unpaid family labour and are able to manage the imminent changes to the farm subsidy system.