Serving the Farming Industry across the Midlands for 35 Years
Since 2016, South Shropshire beef, sheep, poultry, and arable farmer, Ian Alderson, has been working alongside his son, Jim.

A Shropshire family farm is embracing change to safeguard its future

Since 2016, South Shropshire beef, sheep, poultry, and arable farmer, Ian Alderson, has been working alongside his son, Jim, to diversify the family’s livestock enterprise with a focus on maintaining high herd and flock health. In addition to lambing indoors during February, they have made the decision to introduce an additional batch, lambing outdoors, in April.

This new initiative was Jim’s idea after helping a neighbouring farm with their New Zealand style lambing set-up earlier this year. 

“Jim lent a hand for about a month which he really enjoyed,” says Mr Alderson. “Lambing outdoors is less labour intensive as you’re monitoring the flock and only intervening when there’s an issue. We’d already been discussing reducing the amount of arable and this new venture plays to the farm’s strengths.”

 With these factors in mind, they bought 100 ewes from their neighbour’s surplus, as well purchasing a few extra hogs and lambs, increasing the flock to 680.

Minimising disease risk

Buying in livestock always comes with a risk. As a long-standing Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador, Mr Alderson works hard to reduce the chance of introducing infection and takes a preventative health approach. 

“We only buy from trusted sources and also quarantine all our stock that’s bought in. The new ewes were all given a drench and vaccinated for orf, to tie in with our existing flock health plan. Having a proactive vet relationship makes a big difference,” says Mr Alderson.

Health is a priority

This year they had started to see a few lameness issues but were quick to respond to the challenge by giving the sheep an additional vaccination booster in March. 

“The results from vaccinating for lameness in November and March have been tremendous,” Mr Alderson explains. “When I first started vaccinating sheep for lameness about 25 years ago, the difference was amazing. I know it’s an extra cost, but it’s so much better than having to treat lame sheep.” 

Like many farmers, Mr Alderson is thankful for the introduction of effective vaccinations during his farming career.

“I honestly wouldn’t keep sheep on this farm if we couldn’t vaccinate for abortion, orf and footrot,” he says. “Not only do vaccines result in healthier, more productive animals, but as farmers, whatever you can do to make your life easier on the farm is better for your own mental health. Looking after sick animals is just a massive drain.”

Happy families

Family dynamics are well known to impact farm businesses and Mr Alderson was keen to ensure that his son was happy to get involved.

“Running a farm is a big commitment and I wanted Jim to have enough life experience to be sure that this was what he really wanted to do. I encouraged him to travel and see a bit more of the world before making his decision.”

His father’s approach has paid dividends as Jim observes, noting that being given autonomy over the plans for the farm has given him a real opportunity to learn and take on responsibility.

“When I first came back from travelling, it was my idea to introduce the suckler herd. Like dad, I prefer working with livestock and it seemed like a logical way to diversify the business and give me something to get my teeth into,” he says. 

Jim Alderson bought a mixed age group of 23 cows and a Limousin bull, having fine tuned their Spring calving system in advance of increasing herd size. 

“At the moment we’re working on increasing the capacity of the cow shed to make the management of our livestock as straightforward as possible,” he explains.

A lasting legacy

The Aldersons have been farming in the area since 1920s. Having the next generation on board has been a positive step, giving the business a new lease of life while also transferring knowledge gleaned from years of experience.  

“I’m so glad that Jim wants to continue. It’s given me the chance to instil the values that I believe matter – such as importance of having a high herd and flock health status,” says Mr Alderson.

“Ultimately, I’m taking care of the farm just as my father took care of it before me. I originally made additions to the farm, introducing chickens and a biomass boiler and now Jim has the chance to evolve the business. He’s already making his mark with cattle and outdoor lambing. 

“We’re always open to trying new things. It helps to keep you on your toes and makes farming more enjoyable. If my family and our animals are happy and healthy, then I’m happy too.”