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Tony Shepherd and John Henderson: Share farming takes the Oxford limelight, with progress at last

Insights

Well I have to report that John came back from the Oxford Conference rather overexcited as share farming was mentioned repeatedly and positively.

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Particularly so in the Bidwells report, commissioned by the conference, on the outlook for the next decade, which suggests we need to find more flexible ways of combining land, labour, capital and enterprise.

 

All this fits neatly with the fact John is also helping the CLA update the advisory handbook on share farming. John, who helped launch it when is was written back in 1984, used it as the template for his first agreement with David Coates that year and then with me in 1992.

 

We repeatedly say share farming is not necessarily the answer for everyone, but we are also clear its flexibility can be suitable for a variety of situations and it is important the mechanics are better understood.

Accounts

John’s farm account year end was January 31, so we had CCM Auctions’ Ted Ogden calculating a stock valuation so John’s share can be put in his accounts. This highlights our separate businesses which have contracted to ‘share’ the farming at St Helen’s.

 

We resolved the problem of the fattening cattle not eating enough by replacing some of the barley with a beef nut - it turns out the barley is too finely milled rather than rolled.

 

The cattle are more content and, importantly, are now performing as they should. Finishing cattle is a new venture for us and has provided interest as well as extra work. We had to buy a new cattle crush to trim the bellies for slaughter and unfortunately, as our cattle are getting fat, the beef price is falling. One of the ‘joys of farming’ John points out.

 

This, of course, means John’s share from the fat cattle sales will be lower, but good for me as we are sharing the risk of the ups and downs of the farming cycle.

 

Sometimes when we meet up we will also have a ride around the farm to see how things are looking and how the stock have performed. At our last meeting, I was keen to show John some stores he last saw when they first arrived in April.

 

They came as small hard-farmed cattle but have done well and shaped up nicely. They will be a pleasure to look at this summer, with most of them hopefully going off the farm as fat cattle in late summer.

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