Matt Harding

2021 Sheep Farmer of the Year winner

Lodge Farm,
Bentley Suffolks,

Through a combination of incorporating different genetics and utilising technologies, the Harding family has been able to continue to compete in a competitive ram selling market place for many years.

Suffolks have been at the heart of the enterprise for more than 60 years and with a desire to continue to compete in the breed and also with other breeds came the drive to look at genetics and how these could be improved.

Alongside performance recording, which has been carried out with Signet for almost 40 years, the decision was made to introduce some New Zealand genetics into the Suffolks to improve functional traits, including clean back ends, ease of lambing and lamb vigour, explains Matt.

In collaboration with Innovis, better Suffolk ewes were also flushed to specific Charollais rams to start a composite Aberblack flock.

This combination of incorporating different genetics and utilising technologies has been a huge step forward, says Matt, with customers seeing the benefits on their own farms.

The business has also moved to a forage-only system, meaning stock carried are now more functional, better grass converters and able to hold condition more easily, says Matt, who adds that being part of the precision grazing group has also shifted his focus onto soil health and structure.


Ewe numbers now stand at 150 pedigree Suffolks, 170 Aberblacks and a nucleus flock of 100 Aberfields.

The farm sold 182 forage-fed,  performance-recorded rams direct from the farm last year and is hoping to sell 200 more this year.

All stock is marketed from home, with social media, website and video presence proving essential for building their market. Suffolk rams are still sold to pedigree breeders and there is a good demand for females, particularly from Europe, with 15-20 exported most years. Aberblack rams are marketed through Innovis.

What the Judges said about Matt:

The judges were impressed with Matt’s professional and considered approach, while his enthusiasm shone through. He demonstrated a good understanding of his customer base and the judges praised how he has grown and developed the family business to meet changing demands. Matt also identified that a realistic work/life balance was important to him and his family and demonstrated realistic goals and targets which had been met, with a consistent bottom line to further consolidate this impressive sheep farming business.

On winning, Matt said:

“It’s an absolute honour just to be nominated but to be shortlisted as well and then win is a big surprise. 

“We know two of the other businesses on the shortlist and they are fantastic and we have a lot of respect for them.  

“We’re extremely proud of being a long standing family businesses which has kept out customers with us.” 

Asked how he was enjoying the BFA’s, he added: “After the last 18 months getting out and meeting people and people from different sectors is really inspiring and makes you want to crack on and improve more.”