Farmers Weekly Awards 2020: Young Farmer of the Year

Bertie Newman, Manor Farm Bungalow, Dorset

Twenty-five-year-old Bertie has full responsibility for the management and everyday running of an agricultural business spread across 607ha in blocks around Dorchester.

The organic farming system includes suckler beef, sheep, dairy beef and contracting.

With plenty of practical farming experience behind him, he is confident when suggesting and making changes to the business, and has already significantly adapted the livestock enterprises.

Driven by a desire to improve efficiencies and run a profitable business, he is keen to learn as much as he can and apply it where appropriate.

In addition, he appreciates the importance of understanding agriculture’s environmental implications and how carbon accounting fits in with future farm policy.

Farm facts

  • AHDB Strategic Farm
  • Higher Level Stewardship
  • Organic farm, producing beef from forage
  • Uses Breedr system for data-driven decisions
  • 120 suckler cows, progeny finished on farm
  • 1,000 North Country Cheviot ewes
  • Dairy origin beef/contracting enterprises
  • One full-time staff member
  • One part-time staff member
  • 132ha owned land
  • 475ha rented land

Getting started

Bertie completed an advanced technical extended diploma in agriculture at Sparsholt College before working on several farms in New Zealand and Australia for six months.

He returned to the 28ha family farm in 2014 and set up his own suckler herd of 35 cows when he was 19.

In 2017, the family bought the 132ha Manor Farm and Bertie became a partner in the business alongside his parents, bringing his cattle with him.

His willingness to start enterprises on his own and his determination to take a leadership role demonstrate his ambition and commitment to the industry.

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Current business

As well as Manor Farm, about 475ha is also rented in blocks on various grazing licences and farm business tenancies.

In 2018, Bertie took on sole management of the total 607ha when his father started running a dairy cattle enterprise belonging to Bertie’s grandfather, who had become ill.

Though his family’s way of farming was fully ingrained in Bertie, he was not averse to putting his stamp on the business.

With the cattle, he has replaced purebred Angus with dairy cross Angus, worked hard to improve early life nutrition and moved from year-round calving to autumn and spring blocks.

The main aim with the sheep is to reduce the ewe overheads, and make lamb production more efficient by producing the same number of lambs from fewer ewes.

Although, historically, the business only sold lamb deadweight, Bertie is now selling some live as stores, which has made the business more flexible and allows the team to react faster to the market.

He also introduced two new enterprises: contracting and dairy-origin beef. These were specifically chosen to make use of the available resources and to improve cashflow. In autumn 2019, he set up a TB isolation unit.

Going forward

In five years’ time, Bertie hopes to have 1,000 cattle on the farm at any one time, selling 500 a year, as well as selling 1,200 lambs annually from fewer ewes.

He plans to move to spring block-calving only and to have more detailed recording of data, alongside working with precision livestock trading and analytics tool Breedr to optimise the system.

Bertie also aims to focus on better marketing of organic grass-fed beef and lobbying organic groups to share the message of the product’s quality.

Already used to low stocking rates with his organic system, he is keen to work on reducing the business’s carbon footprint while keeping it as productive as possible.

Any element he adds has to pay its own way and Bertie is convinced that he will be able to make a success of his farm, no matter what comes his way in terms of farm support and policy.

Bertie understands his business to the last detail, intends to keep learning and improving, and is completely dedicated to the agriculture industry and its future.

Winning ways

  • Understands importance of environment and reducing carbon footprint
  • Has identified natural capital assets on holding
  • Uses Farmbench benchmarking
  • Enjoys visiting farms/learning from others
  • Keen to make business efficient and robust
  • Engaged with technology
  • Taken on a lot of responsibility
  • Very involved in the local community
  • Keen on engaging with the public   

A word from our independent judge

“Bertie’s ethos is to produce more from less, in order to have a sustainable and profitable business. Bertie has shown a willingness to improve his knowledge by spending time travelling, learning from peers, utilising data and benchmarking, and putting this knowledge into action to progress the business.”

Cath Crowther, CLA East regional director

Other finalists were:

  • Sam Hall
    The Homestead Farm, Staffordshire
  • Adam Walton
    Hedgehog Cottage, Norfolk

Read about the finalists

The Farmers Weekly 2020 Young Farmer of the Year is sponsored by Azets

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