Farmer Focus: Bill Metcalf on the sheep sector

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf rent 89ha (220 acres) of grassland, plus moorland grazing, near Barnard Castle, and own a further unit 12 miles away. Farms are stocked with 120 sucklers, including 20 pedigree Blonde d’Aquitaines, and 1200 ewes with 200 replacements

Finally, and about time too some might say, this is the last article from the “Brothers Grimm” – as we were once dubbed by a fellow Farmer Focus writer.

During a short chat with Peter Kendall at our local Grassland Dinner, he asked about my confidence in the future, and this set me thinking about how this has changed. When I began these monthly updates I was about 40, a ‘youngish’ farmer and feeling reasonably positive – or so I thought. Now, about to hit the big 50 and a little longer in the tooth, once more I am reasonably positive and possibly have more confidence in the sheep industry than at any time in the past 10 years.

I was impressed with the NFU leader and give him credit for having to deal with government bureaucracy. I agreed with him that, despite EID and cost sharing, the sheep sector has lots going for it. Indeed, in our own flock we are daring to plan for years ahead rather than just tomorrow – we have put more than 300 ewes to pure Swaledale, the most ever, with these being the future of our North of England Mule breeding sheep, and their future offspring to terminal sires.

As an alternative to writing these articles I have developed a new ‘farming diversification’. Having harvested the hedgerows, I am awaiting the results from my first batch of sloe gin – another month and this should be ready for a seasonal toast.

A final thank you to Farmers Weekly for allowing me to write and letting me express my views, usually not very respectful nor politely, about DEFRA, the RPA etc. However, by the time they reach FW my wife has generally removed the most inappropriate comments, particularly in regard to Margaret Beckett and Hilary Benn!

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