Farmer Focus: Preparing for £54 a lamb break-even price

It’s been two and a half years since we braved an airport with the children but Jo decided we all needed a break.

We ran around in a blind panic for two weeks. You try to do every job you’ve been avoiding since forever, but suddenly seems vital.

Then, when away I had sleepless nights worrying that the sheep would all get out on to the A1 and have to be shot by police.

We came home and the world had kept turning and everything was fine. Just before we went, we got all drilled up and this week should see us all sprayed up for the winter.

See also: How Oxfordshire sheep farmers cut cost of production by 12%

We have a busy winter planned. Following a recent drainage survey, we have ditching work to do and are aiming to install permanent handling systems on areas of land bigger than 40ha.

We have a very spread-out farm and hope this makes logistics a lot more manageable. Our new livestock container arrived this week too. Moving a mob should take an hour or so instead of a day.  

A big driver for this is our decision not to take on a shepherd for the time being. Taking on the extra ewes means we are finally at the efficiency level we have always dreamed of.

We include every penny that goes out into our lamb cost of production figures – all fixed costs, rents, loan interest and repayments.

Our peak cost while establishing our business was £108 a lamb, which was in a year we took on more ground, were understocked and employed a full-time shepherd.

Now we are running at a cost of £54 a lamb, a figure we hope can allow us to weather any Brexit storms that might be coming. We are up to a better stocking rate and it’s just Jo and myself working with the sheep.

A good shepherd could see your growth rates and rearing percentages rise, but will add £12 a lamb in costs (wage, house, pick-up, dog).

With lots still changing within our business we feel battening down the hatches for now is the way to go. We’ve got a couple of projects on the backburner so watch this space. 

See Rob and Jo Hodgkins’ biography