Farmer focus: Simple forage system helps poor lamb prices

Autumn has arrived at Glen Farm, with a mild start allowing grass and forage crops to continue growing well.

The last of our lambs went at the beginning of the month and have done well in terms of grades and weights. However, they are £8 a lamb down on where they would have been in previous years.

Although this isn’t a disaster it does leave less in the pot for reinvestment and I don’t see prices being much different next year either. All the more reason to stick with a low-cost, simple, forage-based system.

The rams are in with the ewes and ewe lambs are on the plantain crop with teaser rams. I’m hoping to tighten up lambing this time and make savings on labour and cut losses.

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We will start in April rather than mid-March and lamb ewe lambs in May – hopefully the weather will be kinder to us this time and we will have a bit more grass from the start.

The calf-rearing enterprise is doing well. Our mortality is continuing to fall as we get better at the job and the addition of large ad-lib feeders is saving time and making things easier.

When you purchase new labour-saving equipment you often wonder how you managed without it, but then look back at your bank statements and realise exactly why you did.

Sadly our young apprentice decided to leave us to work in civil engineering. He will be on more money for less hours and no weekend work. Attracting young people and quality labour into our industry is becoming a major issue for farmers. We can’t compete with other industries in terms of wages, working hours and ease of work. The fact is very few young people want to do hands-on farming anymore.

I’m going to have to invest in labour-saving machinery and equipment from now on rather than invest in people, which is a real shame but a necessity going forward. I think this will be the same for many other farmers, too.

Jim Beary contract-rears 900 calves a year and has a growing flock of Aberfield cross New Zealand Romneys on a county council farm. He also runs a contract gritting enterprise in the winter.