Northumberland Strategic Farm launch event report - 16.10.19

Strategic Farm Launch Event, Wednesday 16 October 2019

Speakers: Steven Lawson (host) and Sam Charlton (AHDB)

Workforce: Steven works full time on the farm with his father Alan. They also employ a student at lambing time and have a temporary part time worker

Improving grazing strategies

Steven aims to develop his grazing strategy to improve forage utilisation and reduce the use of concentrates. This is more critical during the winter when he loses rented ground and all sheep return to the home farm. He is currently set stocked and aims to set up rotational grazing. Lamb performance is good with everything being sold off farm by December but, Steven would like to continue to focus on days to slaughter. The farm is now entirely grass pasture having previously been a mixed livestock arable unit. Grass lays vary from old to new and with some direct drilled. Steven in keen to monitor the performance of the different pastures and is also undertaking a new nutrient management plan.

Discussion was held around how he would implement a new grazing strategy with particular focus on over winter feed requirements and setting up a rotational grazing system. It was recommended to measure grass growth and record results going forward. Steven will monitor the changes he implements and has a grazing meeting planned for June 2020 to share his results.

Improving ewe performance

Lambing losses from scanning to weaning in 2018 were 22% (national average 15-20%). Although we can accept this was a difficult year with the ‘beast from the east’ weather conditions, Steven would like to continue to monitor this figure and improve it going forward. Scanning percentages are very good so focusing on output thereafter is key. Ewe lamb performance (as separate flock) will also take priority as well as looking where they are being sourced from. Currently, only twins are kept as replacements. Steven also plans to breed his own tups and performance record those being used, the results of which will be shared going forward.

A discussion was had around whether Steven should consider monitoring performance as A, B, C flock and to use EID technology to gather useful and valuable information which can support key business decisions. Steven mentioned that he was going to continue to body condition score (BCS) and record results and also work closely with his vet with a particular focus on antibiotic use and worm control.

Improve cost of production

Improving the cost of production will continue to be one of Steven’s key areas of focus. His short-term aim is to focus on those key areas of cost which can be reduced, for example the use of concentrates and fertiliser. In conjunction with this cost saving approach, Steven will also look to improve output which includes lambs reared and reduced days to slaughter. All areas of his action plan are linked to either cost reduction or increased output or both. Steven will continue to use AHDB’s Farmbench tool, work closely with his accountant to improve cost of production and net margin and link financial performance to physical performance using key performance indicators.

Further information