Farmers Awards 2022: Sheep Farmer of 12 months finalists – Farmers


The Farmers Sheep Farmer of the 12 months finalists are three various sheep enterprises that each one use a technical strategy to each flock and grassland administration to create sustainable farm companies.

All finalists display finest follow and are examples of a few of the sector’s best-performing farms.

See additionally: FW Awards 2022: Diversification Farmer of 12 months


The finalists:

Graham Lofthouse
Bankhouse Farm, Stow, Galashiels

Andrew Phillips
Windsor Farm, Lamphey, Pembrokeshire

Andrew Put on and Jennifer Hunter
Fernhill Farm, Compton Martin, Somerset


The judges:

Tim White
Final 12 months’s winner

Charlie Reeve
Farmers enterprise reporter

Liz Genever
Impartial choose and marketing consultant


Graham Lofthouse

Bankhouse Farm, Stow, Galashiels

Graham Lofthouse © Jeff Holmes

Bankhouse Farm has transitioned over the previous 13 years from a high-input flock of Texel ewes to a flock of light-weight Easycare composite ewes, that are lambed outdoor in April.

The ewes shed their wool and are bred to be as environment friendly as doable, with the goal of manufacturing their very own weight in lambs 100 days from lambing.

Completed lambs are offered to M&S as a part of a provider scheme with Scotbeef.

A few of the home-reared breeding inventory is offered on, with ewe and tup lambs offered to different farmers by way of co-op Farmstock.

Breeding coverage

Efficiency recording has allowed the farm to pinpoint key breeding aims. The ewes have a median weaning weight of 62kg and a median tupping weight of 67kg.

Use of digital identification (EID) tagging and common weight recording permits extra knowledgeable breeding selections to be made.

The farm goals to breed ewes which can be in a position to construct situation within the run-up to tupping, whereas additionally having the ability to keep physique situation all through the remainder of the 12 months on an intensive paddock grazing system.

Faecal egg rely monitoring on farm helps to cut back worms within the flock.

Computed tomography (CT) scanning is used to calculate muscle and fats percentages and assist hit high specs in lambs.

Completed prime lambs often rating about an R-grade and are usually marginally leaner on common than a 3L on the Europ grid.

At 18kg deadweight, they’re barely lighter than the trade common.

Graham operates a robust culling coverage to cut back points and enhance general well being within the flock. Any ewes which have had issues with ft, tooth, and udders through the 12 months are culled.

Flock efficiency

Bankhouse Farm had a median scanning share this 12 months of 171% and a rearing share of 157%, whereas lamb mortality at start is often beneath 7.5%. Barren charges are beneath 3%.

In 2021, the breeding ewes averaged a gross margin output of £104 a head.

Graham goals for 700kg/ha of lambs offered (liveweight) as a goal; this permits him to have a excessive degree of efficiency with out having to extend spending on inputs.

Grassland administration and flock well being

Measuring grass progress each week has helped Graham to extend grass-use effectivity, leading to a saving of £10,000/12 months in bought-in feed prices.

One-quarter of the farm is sampled yearly to review soil well being, with a heavy deal with lowering nitrogen use and rising soil biodiversity.

The farm operates a rotational grazing system incorporating each sheep and cattle.  “I need to prolong the grazing system so long as I can,” says Graham.

“We now have gone from feeding silage from December to now taking sheep proper by way of to 3 weeks earlier than lambing by simply feeding them forage crops exterior, and this has helped cut back enter prices alongside the way in which.”

Clover leys are used to extend nitrogen ranges within the soils and grass mixes are matched to soil sort to maximise productiveness and efficiency.

Annual grass progress averages 8,000kg/ha of dry matter.

Carbon auditing has been happening yearly since 2018 and the farm has diminished its carbon footprint from 32kg to 30kg (kilogram of carbon dioxide equal to every kilogram deadweight) through the previous three years.

What the judges say:

Graham’s data-driven strategy to sheep manufacturing has allowed him to breed a resilient flock of ewes with robust genetic traits, which lamb outdoor on a well-managed grass-based system.

Graham Lofthouse abstract

The judges appreciated

  • Glorious consideration to element for grassland
  • Information-driven strategy to farming
  • Use of genetics
  • Nice technical evaluation
  • Sturdy flock administration

Farm info

  • Lambs offered to produce M&S straight
  • Outside lambing Easycare composite ewes
  • Lambs completed at 18kg deadweight
  • Rotational grazing system combined with cattle

The numbers

  • 600 Variety of ewes and ewe lambs
  • 157% Rearing share
  • 8,000 Common annual grass progress (kg dry matter/ha)
  • 700 Mixed weight (kg/ha) of liveweight lambs offered
  • £104 Gross margin output a ewe

Andrew Phillips

Windsor Farm, Lamphey, Pembrokeshire

Andrew Phillips in field

Andrew Phillips © Richard Stanton

Windsor Farm runs a flock of two,500 breeding ewes, with lambing happening indoors over six weeks between late January and mid-March.

The sheep are predominantly Suffolk cross Mules weighing 90-100kg.

Lambs are focused on the early market to attain a premium worth, with a goal weight of 42kg liveweight. A few of the earliest completed lambs are offered liveweight, however the majority are provided direct.

Most lambs are provided to Scotbeef as a part of the M&S scheme and common 20-20.3kg deadweight.

The farm is run in partnership between Andrew and his dad and mom, David and Ruth.

A placement scholar is taken on annually from Hartpury School in Gloucestershire, and a part-time shepherd can be employed three days every week.

Breeding coverage

Lambing is break up into three teams, with older ewes lambed first as they cycle higher.

That is adopted by youthful ewes in February, and eventually, in early March, shearling ewes are lambed to present them as a lot time as doable to enhance situation earlier than tupping following their first lambing.

Most replacements are purchased as ewe lambs from a single farm in Scotland as Suffolk cross Scotch Mules and are then put to a Texel or Charollais tup.

Andrew runs a youthful flock of ewes to enhance flock efficiency, with a alternative price of about 23% annually. This has additionally helped to maintain barren charges low, at 2%, on common.

The farm makes use of administration tags for the ewes: annually a special color is used, and tags are notched on ewes with points akin to lameness to assist with culling selections.

The farm additionally has diversified earnings from a pumpkin enterprise and vacation lodging in shepherd’s huts.

Flock efficiency

The typical gross margin for every ewe was £115 in 2021, notably above the trade common of £60-£70 a head. The flock has a rearing share of 160%.

In 2021, the farm achieved an output of 515kg/ha from lamb gross sales (liveweight), based mostly on 3,800 lambs offered.

As soon as weaned, lambs are drafted into completely different weight teams and are then weighed weekly to observe progress and calculate common each day liveweight positive factors.

All early lambs are completed on creep feed to assist them hit the early market premium. This 12 months, 2,600 lambs had been offered as completed by 11 July.

Grassland administration and flock well being

Andrew believes rotation is essential to managing weeds – when land has been in a rotation of crops, usually that grass is cleaner, more healthy and extra nutritious, he says.

The ewes are grass-fed and supplemented on a mix of bought soya protein combined with barley, maize and silage from the arable enterprise.

“This offers us an actual benefit and permits us to combine our personal weight-reduction plan for the ewes.”

About 15% of the farm is reseeded to grass leys annually. Lengthy-term leys are established after a crop of winter barley, and maize is undersown with short-term ley mixes.

Soil testing is used to observe hint components, with the ensuing information employed to provide hint ingredient buckets tailored for the farm’s soil sorts.

Nitrogen use has been diminished through the previous 12 months by rising using clover.

The farm additionally rents out some land for leeks after which advantages from improved soil vitamins when taking the land again in hand. 

What the judges say:

Andrew has taken a predominantly beef and potato enterprise and reworked it right into a extremely worthwhile business sheep enterprise. Grassland administration and crop rotations are used to cut back inputs on farm.

Andrew Phillips abstract

The judges appreciated

  • Use of leek enterprise to enhance soil vitamins
  • Public engagement by way of variations
  • Giant-scale transition to sheep enterprise
  • Nice business mindset
  • Strategic use of soil testing

Farm info

  • Mixture of sandy loam and clay loam
  • Arable and grassland rotation
  • Suffolk cross Mule breeding ewes
  • Lambs offered by way of M&S scheme
  • Extra earnings by way of pumpkin enterprise

The numbers

  • 2,500 Variety of breeding ewes
  • 160% Rearing share
  • 15% Proportion of farm reseeded to grass leys annually
  • 2,600 Variety of lambs offered by offered by 11 July
  • £115 Gross margin output a ewe

Andrew Put on and Jennifer Hunter

Fernhill Farm, Compton Martin, Somerset

Andrew Wear and Jennifer Hunter

Andrew Put on and Jennifer Hunter © Kathy Horniblow

Fernhill Farm runs a flock of outdoor-lambing Romney cross Shetland ewes with a deal with each meat and wool high quality.

Completed lambs are often marketed as hoggets and are offered liveweight by way of markets. Previous to its collapse they had been being offered by way of on-line retailer Farmdrop.

Lamb might also quickly be offered by way of a meat merchandising machine at an area campsite near the farm.

The farm has 750 breeding ewes, and an extra 500 ewes in an natural flock as a part of a share-farming settlement. Lambing takes place between 16 April and 16 Could in paddocks.

The farm makes a substantial earnings from wool, with uncooked fleeces and processed wool gross sales contributing 40% of the full earnings of the sheep farming enterprises.

Prime-quality materials is offered off farm at £20/kg as a uncooked fleece for the clothes trade, whereas normal wool is offered at £2/kg, nonetheless at a noticeable premium in contrast with the common from British Wool auctions.

“After I began shearing 30 years in the past, wool was value £5/fleece, so it must be value about £25 every now, however to the common farmer it’s only value about £1- £2,” says Andrew Put on.

The farm additionally welcomes 15,000 guests yearly by way of occasions together with wool and shearing variations.

The enterprise takes in college college students to find out about each agriculture and textiles, and self-employed labour can be used on the farm.

All of the sheep are sheared by hand utilizing blade-shearing strategies as a part of the wool diversification enterprise.

The wool is then examined for micron ranges utilizing a Fibrelux micron meter, which measures the thickness of the fibres within the fleece.

Breeding coverage

The Romney cross Shetland ewes have been bred to be light-weight and versatile, reaching about 55kg mature weight.

They’re suited to being utterly grass ate up the Mendip Hills, with a rearing share usually simply over 150%.

The perfect ewe lambs from twin-bearing ewes are saved on as home-bred replacements.

Wool genetics are key to breeding choice, with tups bought from high-performance flocks for use on the home-reared ewes.

The demand for wool is encouraging the farm to breed sheep with lustre longwool reaching 10-25cm in size.

Flock efficiency

Ewes are blade-sheared previous to lambing, which removes the stress of summer time shearing when ewes with lambs at foot are at peak lactation.

Sheep are moved each three days to maximise rotational grazing – with the short motion between pastures, sheep aren’t grazing too tightly to the bottom which helps to forestall worms and ailments being picked up from the soil.

Digital identification (EID) administration procedures are used and common each day liveweight positive factors are monitored.

With the farm break up throughout a mixture of holdings, there’s at the moment restricted use of particular person EID recording of lambs for extra technical functions akin to particular person each day liveweight acquire.

The farm has a median scanning price of 165% and a mortality price of lower than 10%. Barrens stay at lower than 3% of the flock.

Ewes with lambs at foot are offered by way of on-line livestock advertising and marketing platform Promote My Livestock.

Completed lambs and hoggets are often offered between December and April at a goal weight of 38-42kg liveweight.

Grassland administration and flock well being

Regenerative farming practices are used, and the enterprise is at the moment in a pilot scheme for an authorized regenerative farming platform.

The farm is right down to everlasting pasture and doesn’t use any fertilisers, herbicides or fungicides.

Legumes are direct-drilled into present sward mixes, with cowl crops grazed on rented land when obtainable.

The outcomes from a carbon audit are awaited. 

What the judges say:

Andy and Jen have created a sheep enterprise that is ready to create earnings at each given alternative, whereas taking a holistic strategy to livestock administration and wool manufacturing.

Andrew Put on and Jennifer Hunter abstract

The judges appreciated

  • Public engagement
  • Pragmatic record-keeping
  • Wool micron meter innovation
  • Holistic administration strategy
  • Meat merchandising machine proposal

Farm info

  • Versatile home-bred Romney cross Shetland ewes
  • A Greener World-certified farm
  • Wool diversification
  • Lambs offered as hoggets
  • Sheep are all hand blade-sheared on farm

The numbers

  • 1,250 Variety of ewes owned and in share-farming settlement
  • 150% Rearing share
  • 40% Proportion fleeces and processed wool gross sales contribute to the full sheep enterprise
  • 15,000 Variety of guests to the farm yearly
  • £74.90 Gross margin output a ewe for the natural flock

Sponsor’s message

Shearwell logo

Congratulations to the Sheep Farmer of the 12 months finalists. All display an adaptable, progressive and progressive strategy to their farming companies. Shearwell Information is dedicated to supporting British farmers.

Richard Webber, director 

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