Farmer Focus: Buying land most stressful thing we’ve done

It has been a long time coming, but at last we have grass growth.

Late-sown barley crops are motoring and sheep no longer need feed every morning. Our mid-February-born lambs are the only mob that have been receiving creep feed.

We are drawing them for sale deadweight on a weekly basis and hope to get the majority away before the price slides too much.

I always question whether we should be lambing this mob early, but if the price is sensible, lamb sales in May and June give the business a much-needed cash injection.

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This year is worse than usual given the late arrival of our BPS money, coupled with us taking on some extra land next door. The land, part bought and part rented, will allow us to increase the size of our base unit at Fearn Farm.

Buying this bit of land is probably the most stressful thing we have ever done.

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It took several months of discussion and number crunching with the bank, but thankfully we got there in the end and are now actually farming the bit over the fence, instead of always wondering what it would be like to do so.

Other than the fact that it forms a semi-circle around our farm, this land is also very attractive to us because it’s mainly free-draining and also has hard standing in the form of a disused runway.

Over the past few years, as our stock numbers have risen, we have pushed Fearn Farm to the max in terms of winter carrying capacity. This land will take the pressure off completely with no extra travel miles.

There’s a fair bit of fencing to do, but our plan revolves around changing the way we feed livestock in the winter. We aim to move away from a cereal-based diet to one that centres on forage behind a wire.

We have always grown some swedes – usually in drills – but this year will see a far larger area grown along with fodder beet, which is completely new to us.

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We have 10 different varieties being planted as a trial in association with Watson’s Seeds and are really excited by what the crop might be able to do for us.

Beef bulls have been sent to the works on a fortnightly basis. Thankfully the price has lifted slightly, although the decision has been made to castrate this year’s cross-bred calves.

Who knows if it will turn out to be the right thing to do, but it will give us options. We could sell store or we could finish them after wintering them outside before selling them to Morrison’s – gaining the Shorthorn premium.

John and Fiona Scott farm 200 suckler cows, 4,500 breeding ewes as well as some crops across 2,226ha. He also has two contract farming operations and generates energy from a small scale wind turbine and biomass boiler.