Two of our farming clients who wanted to improve efficiencies on their farms embarked on AHDB’s Strategic Farms Programme.Halfway through they have shared their experiences to date.
AHDB Beef and Lamb launch the programme in 2017, aiming to deliver measurable improvements to the performance and profitability of host businesses, while also providing a platform for like-minded farmers to share best practices.
Richard and Laila Carruthers, of Rawfoot Penrith, and Steven Lawson, of South Farm Newcastle Upon Tyne, are partway through the current four-year programme, which focuses mainly on sheep enterprises.
Richard and Laila look after 850 ewes, 150 ewe lambs and 65 Sim-Luing Cattle, plus a few pedigree Belgian Blues, on their 150ha upland tenanted farm.
They applied to the programme because they wanted to learn a more resilient farming style to allow them to continue livestock production on an upland farm, which can't hide its production costs with generous support payments.
Richard said: “Our goal is to increase the farm’s output, essentially Kgs produced per hectare while improving the farm’s soil and environmental status. We were keen to be introduced to new technology, being guided by industry leaders and mentored by forward-thinking, like-minded farmers.”
Laila added: “For us, a change in mindset was the first and most important thing. We’ve found rotational grazing to be a game-changer and wish we’d started it years ago. We’ve realised farming is definitely not a level playing field and adapting ideas to fit your land type is challenging. Topping the livestock market isn’t a path to profit.”
Steven farms across 174ha of land which is partly owned and partly let. He has 850 Mule and Texel X ewes, 50 ewe lambs and 20 pedigree Texel ewes as well as 50 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows. He wanted to improve year-round grazing quantity and quality and also aim to achieve greater Kgs/acre sales.
“I’d like to increase our profitability by reducing costs through improved grassland management and grass utilisation. With the uncertainties of Brexit and the UK’s agricultural support schemes we want to be less reliant on subsidies to succeed and move our business forward,” he said.
“I’ve found the measuring and planning of grass availability are as important as doing a cashflow or financial budget, allowing us to rectify any shortfalls in grazing. By monitoring the Body Condition Score of the ewes throughout the year we can improve the performance of the whole flock.”
It is clear from speaking to Richard, Laila and Steven that they have found this a positive experience. As the programme progresses I plan to cover their experiences, findings and results in more detail in future issues of Agri Matters.