Finalists: Beef farmer of the year, sponsored by S&A Fabrications Ltd

E A & L Jackson

RUGLEY Farm, near Alnwick, in Northumberland, is a tenanted family farm managed by Alan Jackson, his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Lucy Story.

As a family, they have run the farm since 1972, when Alan’s father, Edward, took on the tenancy. Alan and his brother, Brian, both worked alongside their father to build up the business.

Now Lucy, 29, has taken over the running of the farm with her husband, Tom, who is an auctioneer at H & H and is also involved in the farm when not working.

She studied Agricultural Business Management at Reading University and, prior to working on the farm full time, spent time in New Zealand and Canada to broaden her experience and knowledge.

The farm comprises 680 acres and, recently, they have expanded by renting 300 acres of neighboring land, as well as 400 acres of poor heather moorland. This business expansion has been carefully thought out by Lucy as she positions the enterprise for the future.

There are 400 acres in arable producing wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape, some of which is fed to livestock and all straw is used on farm.

Lucy has been responsible for the cattle enterprise since 2016. They now have 160 Stabiliser cows, which are monitored resulting in a great increase in their genetic performance. The herd is totally self-contained with only a small amount of semen purchased and occasionally a bull selected on EBVs.

All cattle are weighed at regular intervals, with purebred calves being backfat scanned to measure muscle depth and area, fat depth and intermuscular fat which helps eating quality.

Until 2020, they run 120 pedigree Suffolks and 100 Texels producing shearling rams for sale at Kelso and at Hexham and Northern Marts.

Robert & Wendy Phillip

THE Phillips farm both owned and rented land – 120 acres at Green Farm, plus another 160 acres close to Hellifield, with more than 900 acres on other sites, including at Pen-y-ghent and Malham.

They bought two Highland cows as a hobby, 17 years ago, and were milking 120 Holsteins and Friesians three times a day. Robert is a fourth-generation farmer, but wanted to move out of the dairy industry.

In 2005, the dairy herd was sold, they rented more land and purchased 35 head of Highland cattle from Oban sales and also privately. The milking parlour and tanks and equipment were all sold and the buildings converted to a cattle handling system.

Robert and Wendy Phillip

Robert and Wendy Phillip

They began showing the Highlands and meeting other like-minded Highland breeders. By 2021, they are now running one of the largest Highland beef-producing operations from their small North Yorkshire Farm.

They have three daughters – Sarah now farms with her husband on the North Yorks Moors, Rachel lives with her husband in Edinburgh and Laura is a practice nurse and lives locally with her husband, who works for a local farm contractor.

The herd was soon up to 85 pure bred breeding cows and Hellifield Highland Beef was born on the back of that.

Over the last six years, as well as breeding their own stock, Robert has bought about 60 animals of pure bred young stock direct from a breeder on the Isle of Mull.

In November 2019, 130 finished stock went to Waitrose for Branded Highland Beef and the Christmas market. Both steers and heifers are sold aged between 18 and 40 months with a minimum liveweight of over 400kg.

They are also selling through Swaledale Foods, direct to the public and supply to pubs and restaurants locally, in Manchester and London.

Tom and Di Harrison

THE Harrisons, of Old Potato Farm, Old Mickley, Stocksfield, in Northumberland, run the Moralee herd of Herefords over 93 hectares, which runs down to border the River Tyne.

This is mainly made up of grass and shrub land, alongside 38 hectares of arable ground, which is contracted out.

The foundation herd was established in 2011, and the Moralee (Di's maiden name) herd is now made up of 40 breeding females and followers. The founding cows, having been selected from several different herds, were diverse in their bloodlines so AI was used to maximise quality until some stock bulls were either bred or bought.

Tom and Di Harrison

Tom and Di Harrison

Now with 50 quality cows established, the Harrisons have a couple of prize-winning stock bulls, which they will use over the next few years to develop a good bloodline that will put a ‘stamp’ on and run through the resulting replacement females.

Before retiring, Tom’s father, Arnold ran a herd of Limousin cross cows and also bought in and finished store cattle on the farm. Although this was disbanded shortly before the Hereford herd was established, he still remains on hand, particularly during the showing season.

The Moralee herd has taken the Hereford world by storm, turning out regular show ring champions and pedigree sales toppers as well as producing high-quality beef for direct sales.

April 2018-born bull Moralee 1 Rebel Kicks KS R12 had an exceptional show season in 2019. He was awarded Joint National Poll Bull of the Year and Reserve Overall Bull of the Year 2019. He also had some interbreed success winning the Overall Native Champion Junior Bull at the Royal Welsh Show.

Tom and Di are members of the Hereford Society and are actively involved in promoting the breed. Tom has been a Council Member of the North of England Hereford Club and has just completed his three-year term.

  • The Northern Farmer Awards 2021 will take place – virtually – on Thursday, February 25. Log onto at 7pm to watch the ceremony. Get involved on social media using #northernfarmerawards