South-West Farm Resilience Network Farm Tour

July 19, 2021

By the kind permission of the Smith family, the South-West Farm Resilience Network (FRN) group were able to hold their first in person event on 15th July. 30 farmers from Cornwall, Somerset and Devon began the day began with a tractor tour around the farm. Matt and Pippa Smith led the tour, explaining the changes they had made to the farm, including the introduction of their deer herd, the re-introduction of many hedge banks and the creation of new ponds. The farmers were first led to a group of hinds and learnt more about the principals of deer farming and the nature of the animals themselves. Following this, they were taken to see some of the farm’s Romneys and Matt explained their dedication to breeding resistance into their flock. After this, Matt and Pippa showed them the stags and went into some detail on the breeding of deer herds as well as how to handle them and what they do with the antlers (largely dog chews!).

After lunch, the group were given a tour of the of the farm buildings, most of which had been built in the last several years. Beginning in the slatted sheep shed, Matt explained how their decision to remove the use of straw bedding dramatically improved the health of the flock, but that there were also things they would do differently were they building it again. That led into the sheep handling shed. As a previous world record holding shearer, Matt continues to shear as well as more recently beginning to teach shearing. Their purpose-built handling shed and shearing stage has been built with their farming style and preferences in mind. To complete the day, the group were shown the deer handling facility, again built to the Smiths preferences, which led directly into their newly built abattoir.

The day was a very informative and thought provoking for all and it was a great first event for the FRN groups.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund would like to thank their funders, the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, for their support of the Farm Resilience Network.