Laund Farm, Chipping, Preston
• Created an added value enterprise that also benefits other farmers
• Excellent stockmanship
• Strong focus on education and environment
• Family works welltogether
The sheep sector certainly needs fresh ideas and drive, and in Simon Stott it has all of those attributes and so much more. This young entrepreneur is at the centre of a vibrant family business, which has a commercial flock as well as an impressive added value sheep milking enterprise at its heart.
Simon is managing director of Sheep Milk UK and a partner, with his father John, in Laund Farm. They are breeding pure Blue-faced Leicesters and using their own progeny on a Swaledale flock to produce the mule lamb. They specialise in selling 400 mule lambs a year and 30 Blue-faced Leicester rams. The sheep dairy involves milking 400 Friesland ewes, and Simon sells all males via the meat market and the females to other milking farmers or for replacement stock.
The father and son make an excellent team, combining experience in stockmanship with the energy and ambition of youth. The sheep milk sector is growing fast, particularly for cheese and yoghurt production as lactose intolerant consumers look for alternatives to cow and goat milk.
Simon spotted the opportunity and set up his own farmer co-operative selling the milk from seven neighbouring sheep farms on contracts to 12 dairies. He achieves a price of £1/litre for the milk, with the cost of production at 86p/litre. The product is largely processed into cheese and sold through dairies, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer, although the biggest proportion goes to Singletons dairy for the US market.
Quality is essential and this is entirely dependent on the diet of the sheep, enormous attention to detail and intensive monitoring of the milk.
A key part of his marketing policy has been to be farm assured and to encourage retailer and other meat and milk buyer visits to the farm. Regular auction sales allow them to regulate liveweight values and keep in line with auction prices.
The family’s pride in Laund Farm is apparent from their prolific planting of trees, establishment of seven miles of hedgerow, building of three new ponds and restoration of an ancient lime kiln.
“If you are an intensive farmer, you have to put a bit back and it’s working well for us,” said Simon. “One of the best things we have ever done is to get grants for hedges and trees. It’s right for the sheep and for the wildlife. I have a digger and I love building ponds to try to encourage wader birds back here.”
A £65,000 classroom has just been built alongside the farmhouse to expand their educational work. Rachel, Simon’s wife, is an environmental health officer and is getting CEVAS accredited to take on more school visits.
Simon has also embarked on his own education by travelling to Spain to investigate high-tech parlours and automated systems.
John’s father, the late John Stott, pioneered the Blue-faced Leicester in Lancashire more than 50 years ago and started breeding what later became the mule. With that kind of heritage, it is no wonder that Simon Stott is the 2011 Sheep Farmer of the Year.
• Family-run commercial sheep enterprise and sheep milk business
• 600,000 litres of sheep milk sold each year to UK and US markets
• Lifetime tenancy on 187ha
“Simon symbolises all that is great about British sheep farming. Excellent standards of traditional stockmanship, combined with innovation in tapping into a new market. His vision around environmental stewardship and education is also inspiring.”
Louise Welsh, agriculture manager
2011 Farmers Weekly Awards