Tenant farmer John Hoskin is setting the standard for sustainable beef production on a large scale with his progressive attitude on the Duchy Estate at Dorchester.
Beef is the main enterprise but he also has sheep and arable on two farms he manages with his sons Mark and Richard. One enterprise is in Dorset (587ha) and one in Cornwall (154ha). In total, they have 1000 head of cattle.
John stopped milk production five years ago due to poor profitability and was one of the first to secure a finishing contract with Blade Farming in 2005, which meant a guaranteed contract price for the end product as aSouthern Counties Fresh Foods dedicated supplier. The beef business is grouped into three areas – Holstein bulls on Blade contract; traditional beef production by buying in forward stores and finishing on grass and maize; and a 25 cow suckler herd to produce quality beef for finishing using high EBV bulls.
The Blade system is about following clear protocols for health and feed to finish cattle that hit the carcass specification of 255-300kg deadweight. This guarantees a gross margin of £78 a head and profits have more than doubled in five years.
John and his wife Hilary share the management of Maiden Castle Farm with their son Richard and his wife Hazel. John’s other son Mark and his wife Sharon run the Cornish operation, which has some fast growing diversifications, including a garden nursery and allotments.
The Dorset farm is home to the oldest Iron Age Fort in Europe, several ancient landmarks, water meadows and has extensive public access being close to Poundbury and Dorchester. The farm works closely withEnglish Nature and English Heritage and protecting the fauna and flora is something the family takes seriously. The farm is in ELS but John is hoping to move into HLS shortly.
The family has been involved with McDonald’s as one of its “scout with clout” farmers and they will soon feature in the food chain’s 2012 Olympics promotion.
John has spent his entire career supporting the UK beef industry as a director of EBLEX and has been actively involved in Meat South West, theNSA, NBA and NFU. Improving profitability is his top priority either by adding value or improved marketing. He participated in a South American study tour to look at beef production and champions work with others to reduce costs.
John is also a believer in inviting people on to the farm and working openly with the major retailers.