Breeding functional sheep and employing strict culling policies has allowed Matt and Pip Smith to increase farm productivity 200% while holding down off-farm jobs.

In just four years the dynamic couple have amassed a flock of more than 1,000 Romney ewes after taking over from the farm and replacing the mixed flock of 350 ewes and a suckler herd.

See also: Read all about the Sheep Farmer of the Year 2017 finalists

Matt and Pip Smith

Trefranck, Cornwall

© Jim Wileman

Hardy commercial sheep have been bred to lamb outdoors and thrive on all-grass wintering as part of a lamb production system targeting £50 a lamb.

Winning ways

  • Increased farm productivity 200%
  • Tupping on cell grazing
  • Lifting pH levels across the farm
  • High stocking rates of 20-25 ewes a hectare
  • Sorted out equity and succession issues

But they aren’t expected to do everything on their own, with help provided by tree planting and earth banks for shelter belts and stone culverts part of drainage improvements.

The New Zealand-style system has been ideal in allowing Matt and Pip time to invest in developing farm infrastructure and earn off-farm income. Matt is a world record-holding sheep shearer and Pip runs a mobile hairdressing business. 

Close attention to soil health has seen soil pH lifted from 5.2 to 5.9, while an open-minded approach to forage and grazing has seen AHDB Beef and Lamb forage trial plots.

Intensive grazing requires investment in reseeds and fencing. More than £100,000 has been invested in fences alone and 15% of grass leys are reseeded every year.

Savings are made, however, by breeding for strong feet and worm resistance, while faecal egg counts can save on wormer treatments in some years. 

Business risk has been shared by diversifying into deer production and selling breeding ewe lambs as the popularity of the Romney breed grows.

Finalists in the Sheep Farmer of the Year category were:

  • Sam Jones, Brookhouse Farm, Worcestershire
  • Dafydd Jones, Maesllwyni, Powys