Andrew Smith

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Andy Smith runs a grassland farm on a share-farming basis with the owners of the land.

It has 800 breeding ewes and 50 pedigree South Devon cattle with a focus on producing breeding sheep and cattle capable of thriving on low input pasture systems.

Sheep are rotated around the farm on a one-three day paddock system on a mixture of good quality permanent pasture and herbal leys and are wintered at grass supplemented with silage/hay and bought in fodder beet.

Ewes are shorn twice annually, in mid-August and February, and can be housed for up to six weeks after the February shearing depending on forage availability and weather conditions.

Lambing takes place in April with the ‘elite’ flock lambing 10 days before the main flock.

Teaser rams are used and the aim is to have 85 per cent of the ewes lambed within the first 10 days.

The elite flock is single sire mated and lambs are tagged, weighed and linked to dam and sire within 24 hours. Ewe lambs to be retained are only selected from ewes which lamb in the initial 10-day period.

Breed transition

Data is heavily record throughout and ewes are culled or moved to the commercial flocked depending on the severity of any issues.

The flock is in the process of switching completely to Romneys from North of England Mules which are lighter and perform better on an all grass system, allowing more sheep to be kept on the same area of ground. It also enables breeding stock to be sold as well as fat lambs. The aim is to breed with as many ewe lambs as possible to increase the number of lambs born without increasing livestock units.

Cattle are a relatively recent addition to the farm and are used to graze poorer quality grazing and north facing steep slopes and to tidy up paddocks after sheep.

The longer term aim is as numbers grow and sheep and cattle livestock numbers become equal, the farm will be divided into two blocks, alternating between sheep and cattle year on year.

Mathew and David Roberts

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The aim for father and son, David and Matthew Roberts, is to ensure their business remains sustainable in the long term. They run a flock of 1,400 Texel cross Mules which all go to a Texel ram, lambing from the end of February to mid-March. All lambs are creep fed with 50 per cent sold by the end of July.

The Roberts are focused on reducing costs by growing better grasses along with red clover leys to produce better quality silage. This has involved extensive soil testing and reseeding by direct drilling and the introduction of herbal leys has also helped to overcome drought problems.

They now grow 32ha (79 acres) of red clover, comprising of three different mixtures. These are a five to six year cut and graze mix, incorporating 3.7kg/ ha (1.5kg/acre) of persistent red clover, a six-year long term mix with white clover and 1.7kg/ha (0.7kg/acre) of red clover for harvesting and grazing and a dedicated two to three-year cutting ley incorporating 7.4kg/ha (3kg/acre) of red clover with hybrid and perennial ryegrass.


Twenty hectares (49.9acres) of the first cut preserved as clamp silage and the remainder as big bales and all second cut is baled.

It is fed to ewes during the lambing season ranging in quantity from 3.5-6.5kg a day depending on quality, but limited to prevent ewes getting too fat.

This has massively reduced the number of weeks that ewes receive supplementary feed. Twin bearing ewes are now fed supplementary feed of sugar beet pellets and protected rape for three weeks before lambing, instead of seven weeks on the previous system, and ewes with singles are fed for just one week when they are housing pre-lambing.

Lambs graze the red clover silage aftermaths after two cuts have been taken enabling them to be finished without additional feed related costs.

Since establishing red clover on the farm, the Roberts have been able to cut their fertiliser costs and now only use some nitrogen for establishment.

Having better grasses and growing other crops such as fodder beet has also reduced days on-farm for lambs.

What the Judges said

Father and son, David and Matthew, have analysed their business and clearly identified and taken steps to address the changes needed to futureproof their business in times of uncertainty.

Alwyn Phillips

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Alwyn Phillips runs two flocks – 200 Texels and 200 Poll Dorsets, which are self-replacing and performance recorded. His philosophy is that sheep naturally eat grass rather than concentrates and his aim is to produce rams
which have been reared on grass and sell direct from the farm to commercial producers, with up to 60 rams sold each year.

The Poll Dorsets go off farm in early October onto winter keep, returning the first week in December for ready to start lambing indoors from January 1.

They are turned out onto grass and then onto fodder beet in February when lambing is over and the lambs are four weeks old. The Poll Dorset lambs are creep-fed to finish quickly to capitalise on the early price per kilo.

The Texels are grazed throughout the winter and start lambing late March, when they are housed according to raddle marks which are changed every 10 days.

Alwyn has been involved in a number of industry research projects over the years including RamCompare. In 2018, one of his rams came first for overall carcase merit, in 2019 another came second and, in 2020, there were two in the top 10 with one of them having the highest EBVs for days to slaughter.

Muscle line

Since 1996, he has been sending 18-20 of the best ram lambs for CT scanning and the best two are then used in the flock. Over the years he has sent more lambs for CT scanning than any other breeder and now has the highest muscle line in the breed. Alwyn says his rams cannot compete on growth against other performance recorded flocks which are on continuous creep feeding but they still have the highest carcase EBVs in the breed.

This has made him focus on improving grassland production which he believes starts with healthy soil. He has also been cell grazing since 2015 aiming to graze 1ha cells for no more than two or three days.

Alwyn has also been part of the GrassCheck GB project since 2019 which involves him continuing to take weekly grass measurements and fortnightly samples for grass quality and mineral analysis.

Robert and Becca Rennie

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Robert and Becca Rennie contract farm at Mowhaugh and Attonburn on the Roxburgh Estate running 2,200 hill type North Country Cheviot predominantly for breeding with the aim of maximising the value of every animal leaving the farm.

They sell 700 ewe lambs, 200 draft ewes and 30 two-shear rams every year, along with 1,500 store lambs.

They have recently bought a lowland farm near Kelso which had been tenanted by the Rennie family for more than 90 years where they run 400 Romney ewes lambing outdoors with minimal interference.

They also have a flock of 100 pure Texel and Texel cross Beltex ewes which breed 30-40 shearling rams to sell at Kelso Ram Sales every year. Before being sold they are used on the Romneys to produce fat lambs to sell,  with some finishing off grass in 12 weeks.

They also have a small herd of Limousin and Limousin cross British Blue cows to breed show potential calves.


Since taking over Mowhaugh and Attonburn the Rennies have implemented a new tag management system which enables them monitor not only how rams are performing but also how groups of females are performing.

From this they can track the breeding of their sheep right back to when they took them on. This monitoring process is also used to cull out traits or issues which are not wanted in the flock.

Ewe’s feet are monitored closely and a big improvement has been seen in instances of lameness resulting in a saving of time and expense as well as helping to keep ewes in the best condition at all times.

In the short term since taking on the additional enterprises Robert and Becca have increased their profits and broadened their customer bases.

Future plans include opening a farm shop to sell their own meat and produce.

They believe this will be an opportunity to grow the farm business whilst diversifying into a different sector and help realise their dream of producing food with very low food miles and selling it to their local community.

On winning Robert and Becca said

“Innovation across all farming sectors is important. There are a lot of very good farmers out there and we have got to keep trying as best as we can and keep things moving and developing.

“The British Farming Awards are important to the industry as it is nice to see people to be recognised doing what they do best, as farmers and working hard.”
“We are proud to be part of the farming community, its unique solidarity, thankful for our incredible farmer neighbours who have been so friendly and helpful. We want to just say that this award is for all sheep farmers and not just for us.”

What the Judges said

Robert and Becca demonstrated just what can be achieved by a combination of business acumen, drive, hard work enthusiasm and a focus on the future.