Farmers Weekly Awards 2006
Robert Neill is the ASDA Beef Farmer of the Year. Here’s why he won
Forward thinking, profitable beef businesses have been hard to find in recent years in the beef sector, but Beef Farmer of the Year winner, Robert Neill, has all these attributes and more in abundance.
Successful tenant farmers, Robert and his wife, Jacqueline, have progressively improved their 400ha steading at Jedburgh in the Borders to now carry 280 head of Limousin cross cows. Along with their two young sons, Andrew and Harry, the family has a commitment to beef farming and a strong marketing drive to push their business forward.
With a history of accolades already behind them in various grassland competitions as well as being runner up in the National Limousin Society commercial suckler herd competition last year, Robert is confident he can provide a sustainable business no longer reliant on subsidies.
And it is with this confidence that Robert has restructured livestock housing, created a second-to-none handling system and enabled a stress-free and high-welfare working environment for both stock and cattle.
But innovation in his working environment has not stopped there. With a strong commitment to the farm’s natural surroundings, both Robert and Jacqueline believe they have their part to play in maintaining dry stone dykes, ditches and drains to protect and boost natural wildlife on the farm.
With regards to farm management, scrupulous cost analysis is also a must for the Neills, as they share farm equipment with other family members on a nearby dairy farm and offset the cost of machinery by carrying out a small percentage of contracting work.
With repeat buyers often coming forward to buy quality finished stock, which regularly top the local St Boswells market, the Neills have gone one step further with their marketing strategy by producing brochures for butchers’ customers. “Brochures contain information for the housewife about how cattle are produced, offering reassurance regarding traceability and product quality,” says Jacqueline.
And this communication is strongly continued in off-farm activities such as holding regular open days and educational visits for local schools, colleges and Young Farmers Clubs. “No matter how large the party, we’re prepared to take people round the farm, particularly children. Getting the next generation to understand farming will help our success.”
• John Elliot, Roxburgh Mains, Kelso