Harry Barnes’ family has been supplying beef from Abbey Hall Farm to Morrisons for 20 years, and is part of the retailer’s Beef Scheme.
Their business in Warwickshire operates across 303 hectares (750 acres) of tenanted and owned land, including three farming units.
Winter wheat, spring barley, spring oats, maize, red clover and temporary grass leys are grown across 170ha (420 acres), with the remainder down to permanent pasture, and used for fishing lakes and a golf course.
Thirty-year-old Harry says the farm has 350 cattle in total.
As a member of the Morrisons beef scheme, 150 of the farm’s cattle are British Blue cross dairy cattle, which are bought-in from Morrisons’ processor Woodheads Bros, finished and then sent back for slaughter at between 18-20 months, averaging 350kg and achieving an R3 carcase classification grade.
Harry, who has been part of Morrisons’ young producer group, says: “We work fairly closely with Woodhead Bros to hit the spec.
“It has been noticeable across the industry that processors are looking means.
About 15 per cent of our seasonal workers at the moment are British, which is relatively unusual, plus a few Italians, Portuguese and other nationalities who live in the UK.
Normally we are almost entirely reliant on Romanians and Bulgarians.” The business is always making investments and Ben will be looking at mechanisation and water storage in the future.
With plenty of sun the last couple of weeks strawberry sales have been very good and he remains optimistic.
“Lockdown I think has been good for local demand and even if people thinking more about where their food comes from is a short-term thing, it is no bad thing.” for smaller carcasses, and Woodhead Bros likes them killed by 20 months to limit carcase size – so we are feeding the cattle younger as a result,” he says.
“We also have 90 British Blue cross suckler cows which are put to Limousin bulls, with the best calves sold as suckler calves in autumn and the remainder finished between 12-14 months,” says Harry.
“We used to finish them off at 26-30 months outside, but now we bring them in earlier to fatten.
We never had sucklers before, we always bought-in finishers, so that has been the biggest change to the farm since I joined the farming partnership,” he adds.
“I was fortunate that when I came back after university Dad let me make decisions.” Bringing grass into the arable rotation has had benefits too.
“We see a lot more production from the grassland and have been able to improve stocking rates.
The wider rotation is also helping us tackle blackgrass, and we have got more muck and straw to add back on.”
In the future Harry wants to finish the heifers and has a target of killing out at 18-20 months and achieving a weight of 320-350kg and R and U grades.
He may also increase the suckler herd to 150 cows.
“Anecdotally there seems to be more of a drive for British produce because people are having to cook more at home.
It is hard to know if it will stay like that once things open back up, but I think there will always be people who buy items because they care about where it comes from, while others’ purchases are more dictated by price.”
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