Shropshire Strategic Farm launch event report - 10.10.19

Speakers: Neil Brown (host farmer) Amy Hughes (AHDB)

Workforce: Neil and his father Lewis both work full time on the farm and hire the help of students during lambing

Overview of current practices at New House Farm

New House Farm is a mixed arable and livestock enterprise running 800 ewes, which are mainly indoor lambed between mid-March and April, and 25 suckler cows also kept, with their progeny finished deadweight through ABP at 22-26 months old. The arable enterprise consists of 50 acres of Barley that is fed back into beef herd.

Neil is using faecal egg counts (FEC) to determine lamb worming policy. He hasn’t wormed sheep for nearly three years. Discussion was held around the use of Footvax to tackle lameness problems amongst the flock. Neil stated his main issue was with CODD which was being treated with antibiotics and isolation from the main flock. All bought in stock are wormed on arrival and quarantined. All health protocols were decided with advice from his vet.

Main priorities

Neil’s main focus is on using the AHDB benchmarking tool to improve the quality of his data and use it to inform his business decisions. He plans to collect more physical performance data so KPIs can be accurately calculated and measured against financial performance. Other areas of improvement lie with improving his current grassland management to reduce hard feed use and finish lambs sooner, and in the cattle it is to analyse the suckler herd’s performance.

The discussion group viewed the relevant data from Neil’s FarmBench report showing the difference in cost of production (COP) for lambs that were finished by the start of tupping (£1.61/kg) and those that were kept on over the winter (2.14/kg). It also demonstrated high creep usage in finishing lambs. Scanning percentages were very favourable (combined scanning % 2018 (ewe lambs & ewes) 180%) and lamb losses from scanning to weaning were in line with national average of 10 to 15%. DLWG of lambs could be improved now that Neil is recording more physical performance data to aid management decisions.

Ewe, lamb and cattle performance

There was a good discussion around Neil’s stock, with majority agreeing that his ewes looked in the correct BCS for tupping. When looking at the soil on the farm, it was suggested to use aeration for the water-logged areas and to introduce routine use of mineral boluses for sheep. Neil’s vet advised blood sampling sheep before routinely giving them mineral bolus

Queries were raised on the day about whether the suckler herd was profitable.  This will be looked at in more detail through the use of FarmBench and consultant, David Lyth.

Grazing management was discussed and Neil asked the audience if anyone was rotationally grazing and how they had gone about starting off. Audience advised that he split his fields down into smaller paddocks and move stock more regularly as a starting point. Discussion then moved to reseeding as much of the farm is permanent pasture and could do with improvement. The potential use of herbal lays was suggested to improve the utilisation of the grass. Marc Jones, grassland consultant will be coming in to do some grassland consultancy with Neil.

Further information