Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Livestock Adviser of the Year

James Daniel, managing director, Precision Grazing, Cornwall is Farmers Weekly’s Livestock Adviser of the Year. 

James used his experience from New Zealand to introduce a grazing system which gives long rest periods after short bouts of grazing.

This cut concentrate use to almost zero, with the farm finishing virtually all its lambs and cattle fat.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Livestock Adviser of the Year finalists

Chris and Sarah Berry’s 160ha light land farm, near Exeter, has less than 750mm of annual rainfall – reducing summer grazing – and was not making a profit before Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) subsidies.

James advised to push lambing back, get rid of autumn-calving sucklers and a small area of arable. Instead, the focus was on rotational grazing to create a more sustainable and viable system.

“We wanted to reduce the reliance on feed, fertiliser and fuel, and to do that we simply move the stock more often,” he says.

Client farm facts 

  • Chris and Sarah Berry, Higher Thornton Farm, Kennford, Exeter, Devon
  • 160ha of permanent pasture, temporary grass leys and a range of forage crops
  • 65 Angus-cross spring-calving suckler cows plus followers, outside all the year  
  • 900 ewe New Zealand Highlander flock, lambing outside in late March
  • James Daniel has helped one south Devon farm back into profit by moving to rotational precision-grazing techniques, while reducing expensive inputs such as feed, fertiliser and fuel.

Technical knowledge

The stocking regime was aligned to grass and forage growth.

As such, the 900-strong ewe flock’s lambing moved from February to late March, while autumn sucklers that needed high-quality silage, concentrate feed and winter housing soon went.

With outdoor lambing and the spring-calving sucklers out year-round, there was no need for the farm’s small area of arable.

The farm did not feed grain or need straw to house stock, so that disappeared too.

“With high feed prices and reduced subsidies, a combination of rotational and mob-grazing is helping to regenerate soil health and improve sustainability,” he says.

A longer-grazing season and healthier soils have helped reduce the need for nitrogen fertiliser.

Fuel use has also been cut by not having to spread as much fertiliser or winter-house livestock on the farm.

The next step was to make the grazed land more diverse by introducing a four-way mix of chicory, plantain, white clover and red clover to 9ha.

Light lambs did extremely well on this mix, gaining 10kg in weight in a month.

 GS4 legume and herd-rich swards were also introduced under a Countryside Stewardship scheme. Now, 40ha of the four-way mix and GS4 is used to help fatten lambs and cattle.

Client relationship

Chris took over the farm from his parents about four years ago.

He had already made changes before James came on board,  switching to Angus-based sucklers, which are smaller and easier to finish on forage than South Devons.

He also switched the largely Mule flock to outdoor-lambing NZ Highlanders.

He joined one of James’ discussion groups and also sought one-to-one advice on his move from set-stocking to a rotational and more diverse grazing system.

“James has helped speed up the change of system by five to 10 years through his advice on planning ahead and measuring grass growth,” says Chris.

The farm is now profitable before BPS, with the ability to finish all stock as fat in most years.

Chris has gained a better work-life balance too – with less energy spent spreading fertiliser and managing winter-housed cattle and sheep – and he has more time to enjoy with his wife and young family.

Winning ways

  • A very dynamic and responsive approach to modern pasture management across a wide range of grassland farms
  • Not restrained by a particular grazing system, and will work with the one suitable for a particular farm
  • Empowers clients to manage farms effectively, while sustaining and improving profitability

A word from our independent judge

“James works with nature and the farm’s grassland resources to maximise profitability and build resilience, as well as achieving a better work-life balance for the farmer. His practical approach has helped improve productivity while cutting back on expensive inputs.”

Claire White, senior veterinary adviser, NFU

The other finalists were:

  • Piers Badnell, Livestock Improvement Corporation (UK), Devon
  • Fiona Lovatt, Consultant veterinary surgeon, Flock Health, Durham

The Farmers Weekly 2022 Livestock Adviser of the Year Award is sponsored by Eternit

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Farmers Weekly’s farming awards celebrate the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.