A REDDITCH farmer’s drive to modernise his business has resulted in him winning gold at the British Farming Awards.
Sam Jones of Brookhouse Farm, Ham Green, beat all-comers in the Sheep Innovator category after taking the radical decision to almost halve the numbers in his flock and bring in new technology and innovation.
“We were way too heavily stocked and running way too fast so I took steps to turn the farm around,” said Sam, who has followed his mum and dad, Wendy and David into running the 205-hectare farm.
He cut the number of sheep from 2,000 to 1,200, at a stroke boosting flock health and reducing vet bills as well as improving productivity.
Healthier sheep meant less need for antibiotics coupled with greater use of vaccination.
“Using less antibiotics is not only good for us but everyone really, and we are getting results.,” said Sam.
Meanwhile grant aid from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development has enabled Sam to invest in an automatic weigh scale, drastically cutting hundreds of hours of labour.
“It’s ridiculously clever,” said Sam.
“Each sheep has an ear tag with a chip and their weight it automatically recorded so we can make sure their welfare is right.
“We used to have to do it all manually but the sheep take themselves through the weigher now.”
The innovation has spread to GPS guided tractors while investment in renewable energy, biomass and solar panels has put the farm on course to be as energy neutral as possible.
“It’s all made looking after sheep more efficient, profitable and pleasurable,” said Sam.
The judges said: “Sam has made decisions which have improved profitability, animal health and welfare, including responsible use of medicines.
His enthusiasm for his farm and his confidence in embracing change is refreshing and re-assuring.”