Local farmer wins top award for England's most improved herd of Herefords

Written by Tony Millett on .

Martin Gibson with some of the Grove Farm HerefordsMartin Gibson with some of the Grove Farm HerefordsThe herd of beef cattle owned by Stitchcombe farmer Martin Gibson of Grove Farm, has been named by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in their 2016 awards as England's most improved herd of Hereford cattle.

The AHDB is funded by farmers and growers and other parts of the supply chain. It has a major role in improving farm business efficiency and competitiveness in many areas of the agricultural economy.  

This award was made by the AHDB's Beef and Lamb Better Returns Programme for the herd showing the greatest genetic gain for commercial qualities.  There is a separate award for each of ten UK breeds.

Grove Farm is in the Kennet valley just east of Marlborough.  Martin Gibson is from a farming background and he and his wife Ninna bought Grove Farm as a dairy unit in 1999 after his father’s farm was sold.

Five years later they decided to close the dairy herd and focus on beef production. They chose to use the Hereford, a native breed that suited their ambition and farming philosophy, valuing conservation and supporting ecological diversity for their grassland.

The Stitchcombe herd has a hundred head of Hereford cattle and is run beside a flock of 40 Hampshire Down sheep.  Martin Gibson was attracted to the breed some years ago:  “I first came across the breed while driving a herd of Herefords in Australia when I was 17.”

“Since developing my own herd I find them aesthetically pleasing and I was keen to promote a native breed. Herefords provide great meat and are lovely animals to work with.”

"I am delighted to get this Improved Herd Award. As it is a statistical award, we now need to provide the proof behind the figures.”

Grove Farm supplies meat to Andrews Quality Meats of Marlborough: “Our aim is to be winning shows and selling our surplus breeding stock while keeping our local butcher happy.”

This year they showed cattle at Newbury's Royal County of Berkshire Show for the first time and they intend to attend more shows next year, making the most of the opportunity to advertise the herd. Typically they sell around five heifers and three bulls for breeding each year.

“We decided that average was no longer good enough. My aim is to build a reputation for producing quality animals with good temperaments”.