Farmer Focus: Pride and looks don’t pay the bills

I went with three other people to Latvia for some fencing work.

We erected 12.3km of sheep netting fence in only six-and-half days – we were amazed at our progress.

The really ironic thing is that the UK imports a lot of Latvian timber for fencing materials, yet we were erecting steel fences.

This is because there is no grant funding available in Latvia, as they deem it bad for the environment to keep cutting down trees, only for the wood not to get treated properly and rot after a few years. I think they do have a point.

We have been busy with a deer artificial insemination programme with the very best of our pure eastern hinds. AI is of huge advantage, both in speeding up our genetic gain and widening the gene pool to avoid inbreeding.

See also: What farmers need to know about fencing and the law

While taking controlled internal drug release devices (Cidrs) out in the night to synchronise the deer for AI, I got kicked so hard I nearly had my leg broken. Deer are a little more aggressive when in the dark, so it pays to always be extra careful.

We have taken a different approach in our breeding policy than most. Most stag breeders focus on how big they can get the antlers, which if you are in the game market is probably a good idea.

However, that market is well taken care of, so although we have only been farming deer a couple of years, we were lucky enough to have taken on John Burdge’s herd, which he had already been doing a lot of work with good growth rates, temperament and carcass size.

Because we are not legally allowed to harvest the velvet in this country, our main focus is to produce the most efficient amount of meat/ha as possible. As much as I love to look at these magnificent heads, pride doesn’t pay the bills.

We have managed another cut of silage, albeit not a big one, but it is better than nothing. The fodder beet is looking really well. We have growing stock numbers and there is a bit more grass around, so fingers crossed.

Matt and Pip Smith are  Farmer Focus writers from Cornwall. Read their biography.