AN EXTENSIVE REGEN SYSTEM
At The Dairy Farm, Meriden, Coventry
We visit the Beaty brothers, Tom and Adam together with Adam’s daughter Charlie, at the Dairy Farm, Meriden, Coventry, who are finding their low maintenance grading up Simmental herd is future fit and complementing an extensive regenerative farming system.
“We’re looking for a quick return by maximising output from a very simple, minimum input, self- sufficient livestock system that has to fit in with the arable operations, which had been managed by just the two of us until Charlie decided to come home a couple of years ago,” Tom explains. “And we’ve found that our Simmentals are delivering.
“We’ve been grading up our commercial sucklers – they’ve virtually reached purebred status, and together with their calves, they’re thriving on pure forage diets.
“The herd grazes our 50ha of river meadows, which are in Countryside Stewardship, from April turn out until December when outwintering is extended. The herd is introduced to strip graze 13ha stubble turnips and brassicas prior to housing at the end of the month. Once housed, they’re fed silage until after calving in January when we introduce them to homegrown rolled oats to give milk a boost.
“The same applies to the calves; they graze with their dams until weaned in November, when they’re housed and introduced to least cost
silage, ad lib homegrown oats and molasses prior to trading in the store ring to repeat buyers – steers averaging 12 months around 400kg, and 16 to 20-month-old heifers, an average 450kg, apart from those retained for replacement purposes.”
Adam continues: “We’re scheduling these heifers to calve at 24 months and an average 650kgs – it’s a more cost-effective weight and contributes to a smaller, more efficient cow. Going forward we’re targeting the graded-up Simmental herd to reach 700kg maximum mature cow weight; we don’t want big 800kg cows, they eat more, take up more space and require more bedding, and they don’t wean a bigger calf.
“The vast majority of cows and heifers calve within the first six weeks and rearing rate percentage is in the high 90s. We make a point of being around during calving, however I can count on one hand how many we’ve assisted. Calves are lively and soon up and sucking. Simmentals are noted for their milk, and our cows know how to look after their calves.”
The Beatys have been running a Simmental bull with their sucklers for the last 11 years prior to which they had introduced a continental sire, however the calves proved to be ‘too wild’. They then progressed to native breed genetics, but the 12-month-old calves weren’t sufficiently grown to meet with market demand, Tom explains.
The Dairy Farm, Meriden, Coventry
- 285ha mixed, tenanted all within ELS/HLS
- 365ha mixed, contract farmed
- 85 suckler cows, grading up to purebred Simmental status
- 350 ewes
- 24 months age at first calving
- 700kgs target max mature cow weight
- 95% calving within the first six weeks
- 95% calves reared • 14 – 16-year lifespan
“We looked at all the options, however we’d spoken to one or two finishers around the store ring and found they liked Simmentals for their growth and coverage; we were also aware the breed had a better temperament and agreed it would be much safer and quieter to work with. And that’s proved to be the case.”
When Charlie Beaty returned home she says she was determined not to let the grass grow under her feet. “I went to Harper Adams University, graduated in Agriculture in 2017, spent the next two years in Australia driving combines and working on a stock property before flying home and then considering other jobs in the industry, however I didn’t find anything that suited,” she says.
“Instead I’ve made a space for myself in the family farming business which has eased the pressure all round. Yes, I’m the skivvy, I get a lot of flak, however I’m all about further stepping up the unit’s efficiency and providing all round help including introducing new ideas. For example, we’re considering introducing weigh cells to enable us to more accurately assess herd performance and act accordingly.
“As well as launching a box meat enterprise, I’ve taken over managing the sheep and am currently working towards closing the flock.
“We are also planning to further incorporate our livestock enterprises in to the rotation for example, introduce the sucklers to a forage brassica mix ahead of potatoes, whilst grazing the sheep on OSR undersown with a white clover companion crop mix,” she explains adding: “The future for us is about focusing on the margins, not the yields, by further reducing input costs and remaining profitable in the pending ELM scheme. We are confident our Simmentals will complement that plan.”
Meriden Farm beef and lamb box scheme
Charlie Beaty’s beef and lamb box enterprise is providing a welcome boost to the family’s farming business.
“Yes, there are margins to be made, however we’re also getting a lot of satisfaction from selling our own Simmental beef at the farm gate: it’s 100% forage fed, locally slaughtered, hung 28 days, totally natural, no processing,” she says. “And it’s particularly rewarding to hear from repeat customers – we love the interaction; they come back saying they’ve never eaten such high-quality meat before. We know we’re getting things right.
“By close of 2021, we’d sold nine cattle through the beef boxes in 12 months, whilst demand for lamb boxes has almost doubled in the last two years to 15 boxes per month. Margins on the lamb box are slimmer than those for beef, however we regard lamb as a marketing tool to selling more beef.
“We keep things simple. I use social media for marketing purposes – I’ve over 10,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram, whilst all sales are via social media too. The boxes have to be pre-ordered one month in advance prior to collection at the farmgate on one set day per month. The logistics require quite a lot of organising the day before collection, however we don’t have any real over heads and the whole sales operation is completed for the month in a very short time period.”
Prior to launch, Charlie with some help from her mother, Mary Ann carried out essential market research and then established price points to ensure the enterprise would be economically viable. “We used local Facebook groups to determine the level of interest in locally reared, forage reared beef and grass-fed lamb, and concluded that living halfway between Birmingham and Solihull does have advantages, however we’ve since found the majority of customers live in affluent areas within a five-mile radius of the farm.
“While lamb was relatively straight forward to market with a limited volume and number of cuts per carcase, beef has proved more of a challenge. One 375kg heifer carcase can be split in seven different cuts – quick and slow roasting joints, rump and sirloin steak, mince, stewing and braising steak – packed in to 22 general boxes, leaving the high value rib of beef and ribeye steaks for individual sale along with fillet steaks.
“Initial trade was helped by (Covid) lock down, particularly in the start-up months, however, confident that we have an established customer base with potential for growth, in the near future we would like to increase sales to at least 12 cattle per year through the beef boxes.”