Farmer Focus: Time for a bigger farm

It’s been an incredibly busy start to spring here at Glen Farm, with lambing in full swing and a fresh batch of calves coming in.

I’m lucky enough to have some very capable part-time staff that come and help me get on top of things when needed. My parents also visited for Easter, and dad was put straight to work lambing and training calves to use the feeding machine.

He compared two days working with me to “like being a recruit in the Royal Marines”, although secretly I think he enjoyed it.

See more: First batch of calves growing well

It was a rather difficult start to lambing, with losses a little higher than expected due to bad weather and some oversized lambs.

In hindsight, 20 March may be a little early in the year to start lambing outdoors, but who knows what next April will bring?

I’m glad I didn’t take the advice to feed ewes concentrates in the run up to lambing, as this would have significantly increased lambing problems.

On a positive note it is proof the Aberfield/NZ Romney is a very self-sufficient and economical ewe that doesn’t require supplementary feeding. Instead, it’s more a case of tweaking the management and getting the grazing system in order to reduce losses in the future.

We have been weighing a few lambs to get an idea of early growth rates. Averages are looking good so far and should improve as the grass comes.

Calf rearing has been going well with targets being exceeded and the quality of cattle leaving the farm is very good.

We have now linked up the feeding machine to a laptop and got it online. This will give us a more accurate measure of feed consumption and growth rates and is a more precise management tool. In future it would be nice to operate a similar system with the sheep.

I’ve managed to progress quite quickly on this farm, through a combination of hard work and a good system/business model and am starting to outgrow it now.

I’ve added to it by renting additional parcels of land within a 10-mile radius of the home farm, but the logistics of this at busy times aren’t great so I’m going to have to start looking for a bigger farm to move on to if I want to grow and drive the business forward.

I will start by writing to various estates and land agents and it will be interesting to see what opportunities may be out there. It would also be nice to see this farm passed on to a forward-thinking new entrant, as you would struggle to find a better starter farm than this one.

 Jim Beary

Jim contract rears 900 calves a year and has a growing flock of Aberfield cross New Zealand Romney’s on a county council farm. He also runs a contract gritting enterprise in the winter.