Farmer Focus: Hopes raised for beef turnout

The past month has been a challenge. We have had three times our normal rainfall in January, our water meadows have been flooded and puddles have appeared in places I haven’t seen before. Our lagoon is still full and our heap of farmyard manure from the loose yards resembles Mount Everest.

However, we are 100% better off than our farming friends on the Somerset Levels and closer to home near Tewkesbury who are enduring a nightmare. I am really proud of the way farmers have rallied round to help colleagues in need. I think James Winslade and his friends deserve a medal for the dignity and patience they have shown as they not only deal with flooded farms but the daily arrival of politicians, some of whom didn’t bring welly boots. James must be an even money bet for Farm Champion of the Year at the 2014 Farmers Weekly Awards in October.

We have had much less rain in the past seven days and the showers have been punctuated with some beautiful sunny spells, the ground is drying quickly and the soil temperature must be high as we have grass everywhere.

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Our Westerwold leys are moving and the reseeded red clover/Italian leys look tremendous. A few more days of sensible weather and we will eject the Angus dry cows as they are due from early April onwards and calving outside is 100% better for cow and calf. These cows hate being in the barn and have spent the past couple of days looking over the gates suggesting that the place they want to be is in the field. We are lucky our main calving paddock drains well and we find a ring feeder full of straw and pre-calving mineral buckets ensure the cows are happy and calve easily.

Following our expansion last year we are now sending 10 head a month of Blade Angus heifers to ABP Langport. We are on a fixed price contract with Michel’s & Butler, who are investing hugely in supporting British Beef, and we are finding this works really well. We get a fixed price per carcass as long as it’s over a set weight and the correct age. As we weigh our finishing cattle every month it’s easy to monitor and control and it’s really exciting producing a premium added value product, which our customer is delighted with. We buy some of the steaks back as I think it’s essential that we keep our stringent and personal quality control close to home. Normally with a glass of good red wine.

Paul Westaway farms in partnership with his wife Kirsty on a 69ha Gloucester County Council farm, running more than 220 Angus and Holstein Cattle. The pair also run an AI business and have recently launched an online steak and wine shop

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