Farmer Focus: Signals for beef and sheep are positive

What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were under nearly 1ft of snow and in the middle of our worst lambing ever. This year, I’m pleased to say, it is the total opposite.

The weather couldn’t have been more kind to us and lambing is going very well. Obviously, with an outdoor lambing system, the weather is always going to play a big part, but I think everything benefits from good weather, myself included.

Having gambled slightly and put lambing back to the 1 April, I was getting slightly uneasy about all the good weather in March, wondering what April was going to throw at us, but thankfully everything is going to plan. The doubles all lamb outside and the triplets and the singles are housed, with the aim to cross-foster the extra lamb. This is working well and hopefully we shall have our best lamb crop for long time.

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Calving is also in full swing and with nearly 80 cows calving in the first two weeks we have had our hands full. Although I know I’m tempting fate by writing this, we have got a calf for our every cow calved so far. Things are going extremely well on that front. We will also be weaning our autumn calves this week to dry the cows off before turnout.

This year we conducted a creep trail based on a 13% and 16% protein mix. We monitored liveweight gain and intake and although the full data is yet to be crunched, both groups of calves grew at 1.4 and 1.5kg/day respectively. The group on the 16% creep ate slightly more. I am eager to see which the most cost-effective diet is and whether the calves with the lower growth rates make it up over time.

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I have also recently been appointed to the EBLEX board, which I’m both proud and excited about. All the signals coming from the industry for beef and sheep are extremely positive, and despite prices not reflecting that at the moment, my personal view is that it will only be a matter of time before supply and demand kicks in and prices will start to rise.

I’m often accused of being over positive, but I think I prefer being that way. I recently heard a group of older farmers putting the world to rights. When the topic of weather came up they all agreed that “we could do with a drop of rain”, with another even talking of a drought. We are a hard lot to please, us farmers.

James Evans farms 300 Stabiliser suckler cows and 1,110 Llen-cross ewes across two units, totalling 825ha, in Shropshire. He was 2012 Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year