Husband-and-wife team is Young Farmer of the Year

The winner of the Young Farmer of the Year category, sponsored by New Holland, in the 2014 Cream Awards is husband-and-wife team Chris and Julie Reed of Somerset.

In six years the Reeds have quadrupled the size of their pedigree Holstein dairy herd. In March 2008, when the couple took on the tenancy for Eastside Farm, owned by Somerset County Council in Chedzoy, near Bridgwater, they started with 50 pedigree Holsteins, milking twice a day for an average annual yield of 7,500 litres per cow.

Today, under their visionary management, the farm is flourishing with nearly 200 cows. They are milked three times a day, housed all year round in sand cubicles and fed a total mixed ration – each producing an average annual yield of 11,795 litres of milk sold.

Mr Reed explains the practical philosophy that earned them the Young Farmer of the Year Award, which is open to farmers under the age of 30 who are an obvious role model and ambassador for the future of British dairy farming.

“Everything we do is focused on our cows,” he says. “A happy cow is a more profitable cow. I have a fortnightly vet routine, for example, and a routine foot trimmer, where I ensure every cow is trimmed twice per lactation.

“It’s important to surround ourselves and our business with people who are experts in their own field, including our bank manager, accountant, consultant, vet, etc. My job is to gather information from these resources to benefit our business.
“Being a tenant farm, our business has to be profitable in order to survive. Decisions are made based on economics and have to stack up by themselves.

“We do monthly rolling projected cash flows and compare these with our actual cash flows. We set targets, which we monitor; for example, our current vet costs are 1.3p/litre and we are now targeting 1p/litre.”

Converting to sand cubicles has driven down bedding costs, for instance, which were previously 1p/litre using chopped straw, to 0.76p/litre, also reducing mastitis and lameness.
The strategy can be seen paying off as the Reeds monitor key performance indicators: profit per litre, per cow and per hectare. They bought a larger bulk tank and purchased 45 more cows in 2013. They have added another 31 cows since winning Young Farmer of the Year, bringing the number up to almost 200.

The Reeds’ investment in the welfare both of their cows and their business is matched by their investment in their industry: marketing, training, networking and competing. They have won show prizes, met Prince Charles and are members of the Somerset Holstein Club.

Eastside Farm is now at maximum capacity with replacements bred from the best of the herd and reared off-farm. The Reeds, who have a young son, Adam, are now looking for the right place to expand.

Andrew Watson, managing director of New Holland UK and Republic of Ireland, comments: “Many congratulations to Chris and Julie. Their expertise, dedication and sheer hard work have fully earned them this accolade.

“We were particularly proud to sponsor this category because we know how crucial it is to help support, retain and develop our up-and-coming farmers for the future of the industry.”

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