Friday 12 February 2021
After being named Farmers Weekly’s farm manager of the year earlier this week online, Peter Eccles has also been announced as the awards’ overall farmer of the year.
Charged with the running of Saughland Farm, Midlothian for the last four years, Peter has led the farm to change the base of its beef production from a 70-head herd of bought-in Limousin-cross cows to 100 spring-calving Hereford cross Angus cows, with size and progeny better suited to the land and market.
A member of the Hereford Cattle Society, Peter also runs the Rockness herd of pedigree Herefords at his parent’s property which has had its own share of success. Peter utilises his own home-bred bulls on the commercial herd at Saughland, along with Angus sires.
Peter aims for each cow to produce a calf weighing 50 per cent of its bodyweight at 200 days. The best of the cows are achieving more than 68 per cent, with cows weighing 608kg at weaning, producing a 413kg calf at 200 days.
Sheep numbers have also jumped from 950 Scotch Mules to 2,100 Aberfield ewes and hoggs while a reduction in the arable acreage has made way for more grass, supplemented by fodder beet.
The environment and conservation are also a key part to Peter’s plan, and his apparently limitless energy drives not only a constant search for high-level technical performance, but also a desire to learn from and share with others.
Technology plays a huge part in the operation, with comprehensive electronic identification management used alongside the Agriweb app to record frequent stock movements across 100-plus rotational grazing paddocks, as well as crop treatments and measurements.
Peter said: “I am just really shocked to have won this award. I was more than surprised to have won the farm manager award earlier in the week so the farmer of the year title was something else. I must also say well done to all the other finalists and thank you to everyone who helped me in my career to date.”
Adding to the success for those making sound commercial use of the Hereford breed, were Esther and Henry Rudge from Herefordshire, winning the mixed farmer of the year title.
The Rudges run a 200-head beef unit. Opting for Stabiliser cows, two high performance Hereford bulls are utilised with estimated breeding values in the top one per cent of the breed. This has improved calving ease and a calving jack has not been used on the farm for the past two years, with calves weighing just 35kg at birth.
Calves are weaned at a minimum of 50 per cent of their mother’s weight and sold fat from 16 to 20 months of age, under contract to Waitrose on the Hereford beef scheme, averaging £1,231.
The family always achieves top-10 supplier status and won this year’s producers category.