Beef and lamb: what do I get for my levy? – Working with our levy payers

Our Farm Excellence network is a key part of our Knowledge Exchange offering. It enables farmers to come together, to share their experiences and ideas while also learning from other industry professionals.

Back to: Beef and lamb: what do I get for my levy?

Strategic and monitor farms

Since 2017:

  • 2,024 farmers have attended our Strategic and Monitor Farm events
  • 3,876 watching our online webinars since the start of the pandemic

We have also set up a number of discussion groups, led by our knowledge exchange team. The topics discussed at these meetings are completely farmer driven and dependent on the challenges faced by members of the group.

Our 18 beef and sheep strategic and monitor farmers have all made improvements to the productivity and profitability of their businesses, while working to reduce their carbon footprint.

We have achieved this by focusing on a few key areas:


Using the right genetics can have a major impact on herd and flock profitability and performance. At the start of joining the Strategic Farm programme Mark Jelley was buying in dairy cross heifers to use as replacements.

It was becoming increasingly difficult to find heifers from high health herds, and he had little control over their genetics. He made the decision to start breeding his own replacements by artificially inseminating his best cows with high maternal performing bulls.

Since doing so, age at first calving has been reduced by 6 months, mature cow size has fallen by 100kg and age at slaughter has been reduced by one month due to an increase in growth rates. This increase in technical performance has been replicated in financial performance with a £220 reduction in cost of production per cow.

Enhanced animal health

Working with their farm vet, many of the Strategic Farms have made a real effort to minimise the effects of disease and promote livestock health.

When Chris Elkington joined the Strategic Farm programme in 2019 his main aim was to improve rearing percentage which was at 119%. Chris was particularly disappointed with his scanning percentage and worked with his vet to understand the cause.

After taking blood samples, they identified that ewes were low in iodine and the vet recommended administering an iodine bolus. This resulted in an increased scanning percentage, a 3% fall in lamb mortality and an increase in the rearing percentage to 136%.

By increasing output and reducing costs, Chris has managed to reduce his cost of production from £2.50 per lamb reared to £2.07.

Grassland management

One of the key focus areas for each of the Strategic and Monitor Farms is to improve their grass and forage management in order to reduce costs.

When Steven Lawson from Northumberland started measuring grass, average farm cover during the winter was 1,000 kg DM per ha (less than three cm), two years later this has increased to 2,000 kg DM per ha (around six cm). This means that winter feed costs have been reduced by £10 per ewe due to reduced concentrate use and less silage being fed.

This increase in pasture cover has been achieved by rotational grazing, taking on additional land, adjusting stocking rates, and being flexible with lamb sales in the autumn to avoid taking covers too low.

The regular monitoring of pasture cover and using feed budgets to highlight issues coming up in the next few months has helped make decisions early. Steven has also started to outwinter some of his cattle on brassicas, which has reduced wintering costs each year by over £1,000.

Steven is now using the feed budgeting software, Farmax, to help improve feed budgeting accuracy.


10 farms have now been successfully carbon audited and an action plan produced helping them to reduce their carbon footprint. The actions identified often mirror improvements in technical performance including improved grassland management, enhanced animal health and utilisation of genetics.

The Monitor Farmers have each conducted a soil health review, helping them to understand the physical, chemical, and biological properties of their soil and how this can be improved to ensure land is at its most productive.

Challenge Sheep

Farms from across the country involved in the Challenge Sheep project are recording and sharing data to generate new knowledge for managing ewe replacements.

The project aims to develop best practice for managing replacement ewes as well as a better understanding of how management in a ewe's first productive year can affect lifetime performance.

Maternal Matters

The Maternal Matters campaign aims to highlight the connection between maternal performance and profitability in the suckler herd.

The two-year campaign provides tools and information on replacement heifer breeding and development to optimise female lifetime fertility. Following normal heifer development, from selecting stock to breed replacements through to the management of first calvers, the campaign includes:

  • How improved maternal performance reduces cost
  • Using maternal genetics to breed profitable females
  • Calving heifers at two to reduce cost of production
  • Reducing calf losses
  • Heifer management for rebreeding success

Recommended Grass and Clover List (RGCL)

  • 69% of levy payers reported RGCL to be a critical source of information in their grass and clover selection process
  • An average of 15 new grass and clover varieties are independently tested per year with as few as one in 20 varieties of ryegrass tested making it to full recommendation on the RGCL
  • The improvements in yield and quality due to breeding provide a financial gain of between £140-350/ha over a 5-year period

Our manuals and online information

Our most popular manuals are being converted into easy-to-use webpages and since April they have been looked at over 60,000 times.

We have over 50 hard copy publications for you to choose from – last year, 21,000 copies were ordered from our order form.

Check out the most popular publications:

Parasite control product guide

Sward sticks

Healthy grassland soils pocketbook & factsheet

Useful links

Beef and lamb: what do I get for my levy? – Export development

Beef and lamb: what do I get for my levy? – Marketing to the UK consumer

Beef and lamb: what do I get for my levy? – Animal health, genetics, and the environment

Beef and lamb: what do I get for my levy? – Weekly prices and reports on production, trade and demand

Livestock Information Programme