Northumberland farmer wins silver at British Farming Awards

A Northumberland farmer has won a silver at the British Farming Awards.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 2:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 2:07 pm
James Drummond of Lemmington Hill Head, near Alnwick.
James Drummond of Lemmington Hill Head, near Alnwick.

James Drummond, from Lemmington Hill Head, near Alnwick, was runner-up in the Sheep Innovator of the Year category.

When he returned to the family business A and W J Drummond 12 years ago, James started the move away from a traditional stratified breeding system to one focused on forage and data-led decisions.

He began to change the flock’s genetic base to run Aberfield crossbreeding stock, with 1,300 embryos implanted over two years to set up a nucleus flock of pure Aberfields on-farm.

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A further two breeds have been introduced on-farm with a total of 2,400 embryos implanted to set up pure flocks of Aberfield, Abertex and Aberdale ewes to breed rams for Innovis’ sale structure. With the embryos always intended to be a means to get the desired ewe numbers on-farm, mating is now done naturally.

The focus is on maximising the utilisation of pasture during the growing season.

Fodder beat and brassicas are used to carry stock through the winter shortfall, with 1,150 sheep wintered on min-tilled beet before starting the prelambing rotation on pasture and 400 mated ewe lambs wintered on a direct drilled kale and swede mix.

Developing the grazing strategies incorporated on-farm has required considerable investment in infrastructure. Many miles of permanent fencing has been installed, while further miles of semi-permanent and temporary electric fencing is used to subdivide fields in the cropping rotation.

Improved grazing management and investment in infrastructure to make this successful means the farm is now carrying twice the number of sheep and cattle with less labour and feed requirement; the increase in productivity and reduction in production costs reflected in the business’ bottom line.

Large-scale ram production and selling female breeding stock has enabled increased profitability for stock that makes the grade but continuing to add value to all stock produced on-farm has been a focus for James latterly.

James recently had an application to set up a food processing facility accepted which will see produce sold direct from the farm as fresh and frozen cuts and ready meals.

Sponsored by Morrisons and organised by Farmers Guardian, the sell-out event at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham was attended by more than 700 farmers and industry professionals.

Now in its ninth year, the event celebrated innovative, determined and extraordinary farmers across all sectors, along with the diversity and adaptability of the UK’s farming community, no matter the size or scale of their businesses.

Alongside farming’s core sectors, including dairy, beef, sheep, arable and machinery, there was also recognition for students, family farms, sustainable businesses, new entrants, new agri-technology and the huge number of diversifications, which are now so crucial to many businesses. 

With 18 categories up for grabs, a panel of 68 judges interviewed 63 finalists over the summer before eventually deciding on this year’s winners.

Sophie Throup, Morrisons head of agriculture, fisheries and sustainable sourcing, said: “The last 18 months have challenged us as a farming and food sector like never before.

"It is therefore even more important to have the chance to stop, reflect and celebrate some of the amazing innovation, care, best practice and creativity these British farming champions embody.”

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