Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Beef Farmer of the Year

Simon Cutter of Model Farm, Herefordshire is Farmers Weekly’s Beef Farmer of the Year.

Simon Cutter’s herd of pedigree Polled Herefords is an integral part of a diverse crop rotation that begins with a fertility boost using compost made from farmyard manure and woodchip and ends with cattle and sheep grazing clover-rich herbal leys.

He believes ruminants are vital to a healthy farming system. Making sure they turn a profit is also essential.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Beef Farmer of the Year finalists

Farm facts

  • Tenant farmer on 81ha county council holding, with further 61ha rented
  • Organic, pasture-fed system
  • Grows potatoes, artichokes, stubble turnips, wholecrop, clover-rich herbal leys and lucerne, plus permanent pasture
  • Pedigree Polled Herefords with New Zealand genetics
  • Easycare ewes and small herd of pigs
  • Farm shop and on-farm butchery

By outwintering and bale-grazing his cows and feeding only forage to all his cattle, he has developed a system he describes as “cheap, cheap, cheap”.

Annual costings are £202 a cow, including 120 days of winter feeding on hay and deferred grazing with young calves at 40p/day

Success is also down to his expert stockmanship and careful use of estimated breeding values to produce cattle that will thrive in this system.

Using New Zealand genetics has accelerated progress hugely and taken the challenge of performing off grass from “seat of the pants” to “easy”, says Simon.

They are even helping achieve marbling off grass – arguably the hardest aspect of forage-only production.

The farm is mainly on heavy ground with “awkward” soils. Despite this, Simon says it would be hard to tell the cattle had been outwintered on them.

Rotation is key to achieving this: soils are protected from poaching by never outwintering on the same field for two successive seasons.

Deferred grazing acts as an “eiderdown”, encouraging earlier spring shoots, which the cows eat along with older vegetation.

This ensures the young growth does not go straight through them.


Simon’s journey as a beef farmer is full of innovation, resourcefulness and learning from others.

It was developed by necessity – starting, as he did, from scratch.

A land agency course put him in good stead to negotiate his own rent agreements, and he learned a lot from Nuffield scholars, taking on many of their ideas, particularly about grass-fed systems.

He says he would be embarrassed to feed anything other than grass now.

In the early days, Simon got Leader grant funding to develop hubs of customers in Birmingham, to whom he offered a discount to pick up their orders from one point.

Today, the farm runs a local box delivery scheme, and sells beef online and at the farm shop. Animals are slaughtered locally at a target age of 24 months at 620kg before being butchered at the farm.

Most pasture-fed beef is ready in August/September, says Simon, so he runs a split-block calving system with year-round finishing to provide a consistent supply of beef.

Next steps

Simon has spent the past year mentoring local young farmers Kitty Stainsby and James Smith, passing on his skills and experience in beef and forage production.

They have now taken on some of the herd, while Simon’s focus shifts to breeding bulls from the rest.

Simon’s two sons, George and Jonty, will continue to look after marketing and delivery runs.

Sue Walker, Simon’s partner and a bank manager with Triodos, is developing a small dairy for a cow-with-calf-at-foot setup to help develop sales from the farm shop.

And Jonty’s partner, Werna Vijn, who already produces salads on the farm, plans to offer people the chance to grow vegetables together to help improve their mental health.

A word from our independent judge

“Model Farm has developed an impressive system using cattle selected to perform and finish on forage. The financial value of beef produced on the farm is maximised by selling through the on-farm butchery/shop and a focus on customers with specialist dietary requirements.”

Ian Cairns, independent consultant with 5Agri Consultancy Group

Winning ways

  • Pioneering and enthusiastic approach
  • Ongoing passion for learning from others
  • Use of estimated breeding values to drive improvements in maternal traits and meat quality in the herd
  • Mentoring of local young farming couple in beef and forage production and engagement with local community
  • Adding value through on-farm butchery, shop and direct sales

The other finalists were:

  • James Stafford, Pickwick Lodge Farm, Wiltshire
  • Edward Hulme, Merton Farm, Kent

The Farmers Weekly 2022 Beef Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by ABP

ABP logoFarmers Weekly’s farming awards celebrates the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.