Norbreck Farm, Cockerham, Lancashire
“They’re the Arnie Schwarzenegger of the beef world.” Philip Halhead’s passion for his favourite breed reveals his mission to win global recognition for what he regards as the world’s premier beef breed – the Belgian Blue.
“Belgian Blues have good locomotion, high fertility and ease of calving. And the super lean meat suits modern consumers’ tastes,” says 34-year old Philip.
It’s a passion that fuelled the growth of two businesses; one focusing on genetics, the other on exports of pedigree beef animals. Philip also runs the family’s dairy unit at Norbreck Farm, Cockerham, Lancashire.
Since launching his company Norbreck Genetics only three years ago, he already exports semen to more than 15 countries from Australia to Botswana and from Poland to the Cayman Islands. The company, the first UK firm to send Belgian Blue semen to Belgium, has trebled its turnover.
It’s a long way from the halter training that Philip used to enjoy so much after school. It was his interest in shows that lead Philip, aged only 15, to buy an imported Belgian Blue cow and to use embryo transfer technology to produce a batch of bull calves.
The sale of his first pedigree bull, Norbreck Jazzman for £5,500, confirmed his passion for pedigree beef breeding.
And the commercial success of the bull’s semen sales convinced Philip that there was a business opportunity to be grasped. The first batch of semen from his bull Norbreck Newman was sold in 1999.
Norbreck Genetics is run on lean lines from Norbreck Farm. The 210ha (85 acre) farm supports 200 Holstein dairy cows and followers plus 25 pedigree Belgian Blue cattle. All the breeding bulls are maintained by a company at Chester which houses and feeds the bulls. It also collects, stores and freezes the semen before distribution to Norbreck’s customers. His website, www.norbreckgenetics.com, helps to market the business.
Until last summer, semen and embryo sales fuelled the company’s growth. But with the lifting of the export ban came in Philip’s words, “the opportunity to think local and act global.”
His company Norbreck Exports is now the largest exporter of pedigree breeding cattle in the UK. More than 700 head of cattle have been exported so far this year including over 300 pedigree Limousin to Poland along with Holsteins and Blondes and Aberdeen Angus pedigree heifers shipped to Belgium.
Despite his global business interests Philip remains committed to hands-on farming. “I’m in the dairy parlour by 5.30am at least one morning a week and sometimes two.” But he’s frank about the challenges facing the dairy sector in general and his family’s business in particular. “The dairy industry has collapsed to such an extent that it can’t go on much longer without risking meltdown,” he says.
He hopes Tesco’s decision to raise its supplier price earlier this year will provide greater financial stability for the family’s 1.6m litre dairy.
Keen to help educate younger people about farming, Philip undertakes a number of talks to non farming groups about farming and food miles. And he joined an MDC initiative to take cows to the inner city area of Toxteth, Liverpool. “I knew it would be fun but I did not expect to find it so moving. It was such a deprived area; we had to pass through three sets of security doors to get into the school.”
Philip brims with missionary zeal for British farming. “I am determined to fly the flag for UK agriculture at every opportunity and go become even more involved with food education in the UK.”
|NAME: Philip Halhead|
FARMED AREA: Norbreck Farm, Cockerham, Lancashire. 85ha (210 acres). Dairy unit with 200 Holstein dairy cows and followers plus 25 pedigree Belgian Blue cattle. DAIRY: 1.6m litres/year with an average yield of 8000 litres/cow.
STAFF: One full time dairyman and two part-time workers.
NORBRECK GENECTICS: Exports Belgian Blue semen to more than 15 countries including Belgium. Trebled turnover over past three years.
NORBRECK EXPORTS: UK’s largest exporter of pedigree cattle.
|WHAT IMPRESSED THE JUDGES|
Philip is passionate about his farming businesses and is as articulate as he is persuasive, according to the judges. Clearly a forward thinking farmer, Philip juggles successfully various roles and responsibilities.
Read what lessons the judges think could be drawn from Philip Halhead’s businesses to benefit other farmers by visiting ww.fwi.co.uk