Being handed the baton by fellow Dorset farmer and longstanding Farmers Guardian contributor, Jon Stanley, is rather a daunting task, but, as this is my first article, I thought I would write a little bit about about my background and a general introduction to our farm.
I think I fall into the category of ‘new entrant’, even though on some cold mornings my body doesn’t feel exactly new. Having not been brought up in a farming family and the only tenuous connection to agriculture was a larger than life Scottish uncle who was a butcher, I still knew from an early age that it was the life and career that I wanted to pursue.
Having attended the Royal Agricultural College many moons ago, my original intention was to study land management, but, after losing my parents tragically during the very first term, I was spurred on to change courses and focus purely on agriculture.
After several years of working for farms and estates in the Dorset area, I decided I would start farming in my own right.
Cattle farming in particular had always been my passion of mine and a close friend had always run Hereford bulls with his dairy herd. This gave me the inspiration to start a pedigree Hereford herd, especially as there seemed to be a gap in the market for Hereford bulls in the part of Dorset where I was living.
‘Hilfield Herefords’ was established in 2010 and, over the years, has grown from a very part-time hobby to more of a full-time job, running alongside other farming interests.
Bull sales have steadily grown over the years and the herd has also been voted ’best medium-sized herd’ in the South West Hereford Association herd competition for five consecutive years.
My wife Kate, who is a teacher just over the county border in Somerset, and I had the opportunity to apply for a Dorset Council farm in 2016 and we were very fortunate to be successful with our application. Our tenancy commenced in spring 2017.
The farm is located between Bridport and Dorchester, not far from the Jurassic coast, with views to Lyme Bay from the highest points of the farm. It is a fabulous place to live and work.
We currently run about 30 spring calving breeding cows with followers, aiming to sell 12 breeding bulls per year. The farm is a mixture of permanent grass, herbal leys and winter barley, which I am using as a break crop to then establish more productive grassland.
We also have a very good following for our homebred Hereford beef boxes and a very busy holiday cottage, with both enterprises flourishing under the strange times that we are all living in.
Away from the farm, which is perhaps the wrong expression under the current lockdown restrictions, I represent the South West on the Hereford Cattle Society council.
All our meetings this year have been conducted via Zoom, an online platform most of us had probably never heard of until recently. That is one small silver lining, I guess.