FARMER FOCUS: Move to Devon goes well

Seven double deckers, two low loaders and two removal lorries is what it takes to move 311 animals, machinery and the contents of a farmhouse. How do we know? Well, on 6 March we did just that, moving 240 miles from south Cheshire to north Devon, writes Ian Ratcliffe.

It all started last summer when we spotted a very well equipped, ring-fenced dairy farm for sale in Farmers Weekly. We were keeping an eye on the market as we felt we were limited in growing our business at Hill Farm, with a lack of land around the buildings and fierce competition.

My father had moved farms 24 years ago and never felt it was an obstacle, so he gave us his full backing when we mentioned our plans, viewing it as a sensible business decision.

We had to sell our current farm quickly to fund the move, which in the end went to six different people with one lot not selling. So many things had to fall in line for the whole plan to come off and it has certainly been a rollercoaster eight months.

The cows were milked in the morning in Cheshire and loaded straight on to the lorries arriving six hours later in Devon. They all travelled very well and soon settled in, although we did have some fun unloading heifers that trashed any electric fence in sight. The milk has dropped only by a litre a cow, which is amazing, and it has been a great relief to see how unphased the cows have been, adapting well to their new home. They seem to thoroughly enjoy the rolling Devon hills and sea views.

Looking back, it was not as traumatic as expected and we’re excited to be in a position to grow our business. Many people thought we were mad, but we’ve learnt that it can be done and I would urge people to consider it as a viable option.

Ian and Cath Ratcliffe relocated their herd from Cheshire to North Devon in March 2013. Farming 102ha and renting a further 42, with maize grown off farm, they are milking 300 autumn calving cows aiming for high grass utilisation and a compact calving block

More on this topic

Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers on our dedicated page