Farmer Focus: We are trebling our farmed area

Well, it’s been a stressful few weeks down here. Conversations with Paul Eagleton, our HSBC manager, have been going on for about a month.

The result is we are expanding the farming operation – just about tripling in area size and a massive increase in turnover (and definitely profit, Paul – I promise).

The bank has been incredibly supportive and we owe both Paul and HSBC a huge debt of thanks.

See also: Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers

They say debt focuses the mind and sharpens the business. What they don’t tell you is being sat in front of a spreadsheet at 3am triple-checking predictions on your cashflow is a cold and lonely place.

Nonetheless, the figures don’t lie. If we are to survive in a subsidy-free environment we need to get bigger and better.


We have kept busy with drilling. The GPS tells us we are just about to pass 200ha drilled this year – not bad for a £3,000 drill and a shepherd or mum-of-three behind the wheel.

Jo tells me taking diesel, labour and repairs/replacement into account, our drilling cost stands at about £9.00/acre.

Rain has stopped turnip drilling with 20ha left. A friend on Twitter has helpfully suggested that turnip growth drops by half every week after 1 September. I have now decided to ignore him.

Lambs backwards on poor grass

Lambs have all been moved onto oats and a berseem clover cover crop. I had taken my eye off the ball with them and we had several go downhill fast while still on (very little) grass.  

A couple of late nights and some panicked electric fencing, drenching-by-headlights and a very late-night moving has seen them back on track. We earmarked 150-200 that should be reaching 44-46kg in the next couple of weeks.

Gathering nightmare

A final thanks to my father. We had moved 450 lambs to a 28ha solar panel site and as predicted, it was a disaster trying to get them in.

We started at 9am and had a stock truck booked for 4pm. By 3.30pm we had managed to get 30 lambs in. 

With a feeling of utter defeat I cancelled the truck and went home to come up with a new plan. The next day we returned with even more hurdles, 50 mature ewes to help calm them down and, best of all, my dad.

He had heard the desperation in my voice and travelled two hours with another quad and his (much better) dogs to give us a hand. After three to four hours we got them all in.

Rob and Jo Hodgkins, Hertfordshire, produce lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys on 330ha of grazing licenses. Farming without subsidy means sheep must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.