Focus farms set up to boost profitability

Beef and sheep farmers in the south west can now attend a series of free farm focus days designed to boost profitability and tackle common health issues.

As part of the South West Healthy Livestock Initiative (SWHLI), Duchy College has launched six beef and 18 sheep focus farms across the region. Each will host three meetings a year over the next two years, examining different key performance issues based on the EBLEX Better Returns programme.

“We have 40% of the country’s dairy cows, 30% of all cattle, and 22% of sheep in the south west – it is a key livestock area,” said the College’s Paul Ward. As part of the SWHLI, 8,500 livestock producers would benefit from grant-funded vet visits and laboratory tests to tackle problems like bovine viral diarrhoea, Johne’s, lameness and parasite control.

“By visiting other peoples’ farms you can pick up tips and put them into practice on your own farm, to save money and boost productivity,” said beef focus farmer Philip Heard from Meldon Farm, Okehampton, Devon. “We’ve been Johne’s monitoring for four or five years, and are finding carriers a lot earlier, so we are getting better value for them as culls. If you don’t do anything it will just get worse and worse.

“We’ve also been vaccinating for BVD for three years and have certainly seen a reduction in viral pneumonia. The calves had got a much healthier immune system. Now that we know our disease status we can work towards eradicating any problems.”