James Small


Warren Farm, Partner in small brothers, Somerset

ADAPTING his system to suit his farm has been the key focus in recent years for James Small, who runs 120 suckler cows alongside 1,400 ewes on the Mendip Hills, Somerset. Originally, Longhorns were the mainstay of the suckler herd, but demand for offspring was limited, so they are gradually being phased out and replaced by Whitebred Shorthorns which are then put to Aberdeen-Angus bulls to produce a blue grey animal. James says: “The Whitebred Shorthorn is a thrifty, maternal breed which will do well on poorer grazing. “We cannot change the farm, so we are working to develop a system which is as efficient and productive as it can be for our situation. “These cows are easy calving, easy to manage and long lasting. At the moment, we are still replacing cows to get the cross we want, but eventually, we will have more calves to sell each year.”

Much of the land is a site of specific scientific interest and cannot be grazed over winter, so cows are housed for this period. No concentrate is fed, partly to reduce cost but also with the farm being in a TB hotspot, it discourages badgers from coming anywhere near cattle. All calves are sold in November after weaning at about eight months of age in two or three batches through Sedgemoor market, although James would like to eventually hold an on-farm sale. He says: “Not only does the Angus work well on these cows, but calves by a named Aberdeen-Angus sire are in demand because of the premium available for the finished product. “We are concentrating on maximising income by being more efficient, cutting costs, improving genetics, improving grasses and soils and meeting market requirements. “We need a business which is able to survive with subsidy and this is the main focus.”