Farmers Weekly Awards Winner: Beef Farmer of the Year

Philip Heard’s notability for being one of the most switched on and successful suckled calf producers in the south west is a credit to him considering the comeback he has made from losing his business to foot-and-mouth in 2001.

In seven years his sheer determination has seen him reinvest in buildings, livestock and infrastructure to now run 340 upland and lowland suckler cows as well as an upland herd of registered Welsh Blacks and a small herd of pedigree Charolais.

His ability to present the very best suckled calves at designated sales in the south west and have repeat buyers prepared to spend that bit more for Meldon Farm bred cattle is credit to his management skills and stockmanship.

The terminal sire breeding policy using Charolais bulls from local breeders and his own nucleus herd is based around producing an exact product for the market. “The focus is to get the calf to peak at time of sale with close attention paid to 200 day weights and conformation,” he explains.

He’s an ambassador for the environment by being involved in various traditional breed schemes and wildlife enhancement programmes. “The Welsh Blacks fit in with the restrictions on the Common.”

The whole farm is in an HLS agreement and preservation of valuable commodities such as muck, slurry and water has seen him reduce costs considerably. Due to the farm’s topography Philip’s preferred mode of herding is on horseback. “Not only is it therapeutic, it’s incredibly cost effective.”

In recent years, Philip has opened the farm gates to NBA and Beef South West farm walks. He and his horse have appeared in many farming publications and although its one media item the Heard family rarely talk about, Philip featured in the F&M crisis video shown on Channel 4 during 2001.

As with the rest of the business, Philip is building for the long-term future, and while there is no room for sentiment in his management decisions, it’s quite clear the emotion, trauma and turning point for his family in 2001 still haunts him and drives his determination onwards.

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