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Tony Shepherd and John Henderson: Looking back on the memorable moments of 2014

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John’s talk at Hexham and David’s for the NSA near Cirencester both created a good deal of interest. Since then John has talked to degree students at Askham Bryan who asked good questions, as did members of staff. So the crusade goes on.

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North Yorkshire-Tony Shepherd farms 112ha (277 acres) as a share farmer with landowner John Henderson at St Helens Farm, Eshton, near Skipton. The all grass LFA unit, rising to 240 metres (800ft) lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They run 150-200 store cattle and 450 Mule ewes, lambing at the end of March.

The silage results came back better than anticipated, with high energy levels and decent protein.

 

Ruth the nutritionist has recommended feeding a simple protein nut to make use of the energy levels, which in theory should make our smaller cattle grow at 1.35kg/day and the bigger ones at 1.45kg/day – as we all know theory and reality might not deliver the same results, but hopefully we are on the right track.

 

We have sent 20 18-month-old heifers away for wintering onto slats, where they will be wintered more cheaply than keeping them at home in straw pens. With the strong store trade it was a fine line between selling and wintering them, but by early summer we will have some strong fat cattle. With a new building planned for next summer it could prove a good savings plan.

 

Our farm insurance renewal has come and gone and surprisingly after a five-year break we are back with the NFU. I say surprisingly because last year they were not in the running with a lacklustre approach to quoting, but good on them for getting their act together and sharpening their pencil.

Reflection

At this time of year it is always good to reflect on the highs and lows of the year. Fattening cattle on a falling trade this spring provided disappointing returns, with the feed firm supplying the barley mix probably making more out of the cattle than us, although, as we had good cattle to sell, at least there were no delays in getting the cattle booked into the abattoir.

 

With the good growing season the grass was too strong for the lambs so they did not do as well as hoped, although overall average price/head was ok.

 

On the positive side, John and I are still in business and talking to each other after 23 years of share farming.

 

Memorable moments from this year for me was watching our youngest son Zak score three cracking goals for his under-10 football team and me crossing the finishing line in front of J.T. on a fell run at Sedburgh. For John, it was having to say goodbye to the old box at

Cheltenham after more years than is polite to remember, but all eclipsed by the excitement of starting to plan for his daughter’s wedding at home next June. What was yours?

 

Wishing you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

 

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