4 mins read

Sheep Innovator of the Year Winners

Celebrating the innovative, determined and extraordinary farmers across all sectors, The British Farming Awards showcase the diversity and adaptability of the UK’s farming community.

Hosted by Vernon Kay, and joined by over 700 farmers and industry specialists, the awards night (21/10/21) was an incredible testament to the determination and resilience of the industry, and a celebration of everyone coming together after a tough 18 months.

Congratulations to Matt Harding from Lodge Farm, Leicestershire –  Sheep Innovator of the Year.

Through a combination of incorporating different genetics and utilising technologies, the Harding family has been able to continue to compete in a competitive ram selling market place for many years.

Suffolks have been at the heart of the enterprise for more than 60 years and with a desire to continue to compete in the breed and also with other breeds came the drive to look at genetics and how these could be improved.  Alongside performance recording, which has been carried out with Signet for almost 40 years, the decision was made to introduce some New Zealand genetics into the Suffolks to improve functional traits, including clean back ends, ease of lambing and lamb vigour.  In collaboration with Innovis, better Suffolk ewes were also flushed to specific Charollais rams to start a composite Aberblack flock.

The business has also moved to a forage-only system, meaning stock carried are now more functional, better grass converters and able to hold condition more easily.  Being part of the precision grazing group has also shifted his focus onto soil health and structure.

This combination of incorporating different genetics and utilising technologies has been a huge step forward, with customers seeing the benefits on their own farms.

James Drummond wins Silver

Congratulations to James  who has won the Silver Award in the Sheep Innovator Category.

When he returned to the family farming business 12 years ago, James started the move away from a traditional stratified breeding system to one focused on forage and data-led decisions. He began to change the flock’s genetic base to run Aberfield crossbreeding stock, with 1,300 embryos implanted over two years to set up a nucleus flock of pure Aberfields on-farm.

A further two breeds have been introduced on-farm with a total of 2,400 embryos implanted to set up pure flocks of Aberfield, Abertex and Aberdale ewes to breed rams for Innovis’ sale structure. With the embryos always intended to be a means to get the desired ewe numbers on-farm, mating is now done naturally.

The focus is on maximising the utilisation of pasture during the growing season.  Fodder beat and brassicas are used to carry stock through the winter shortfall, with 1,150 sheep wintered on  min-tilled beet before starting the prelambing rotation on pasture and 400 mated ewe lambs wintered on a direct drilled kale and swede mix.

Developing the grazing strategies incorporated on-farm has required considerable investment in infrastructure. Many miles of permanent fencing has been installed, while further miles of semi-permanent and temporary electric fencing is used to subdivide fields in the cropping rotation.

Large-scale ram production and selling female breeding stock has enabled increased profitability for stock that makes the grade but continuing to add value to all stock produced on-farm has been a focus for James latterly.

James recently had an application to set up a food processing facility accepted which will see produce sold direct from the farm as fresh and frozen cuts and ready meals.

Improved grazing management and investment in infrastructure means the farm is now carrying twice the number of sheep and cattle with less labour and feed requirement; the increase in productivity and reduction in production costs reflected in the business’ bottom line.

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