The Lincolnshire Wolds, in the East Midlands, has a history of sheep farming that stretches back to the middle ages, when the region grew rich on wool. Today, Ed and Rhian Bray continue the tradition, but they have their sights set firmly on the future.
The Brays have built a successful operation on rented ground, running some 1,000 New Zealand Romney ewes across 580 acres. That’s grown from 100 ewe lambs, bought from Wairere UK stud back in 2011.
“We’ve been increasing the flock size over quite a number of years, and we’ve made good progress, but we’re quite conscious we don’t just want to get bigger,” Ed Bray says. “We want to get better, get more efficient and therefore more profitable. We see a positive way of doing this is utilising all the tools we’ve got available, such as AgriWebb.”
Saving time with streamlined record keeping and reporting
Using AgriWebb has provided some quick dividends for the Brays. Record keeping is more efficient, and those records more accessible. “We were just keeping records in a diary, which we were pretty lackadaisical about and it wasn’t easy to call on information that you needed,” Ed admits.
Now the Brays use AgriWebb to record everything from livestock movements and animal treatments, through to weights, sales and deaths. Ed finds the farm management software particularly useful for recording animal treatments on his mobile, as they’re done. “It’s so easy with AgriWebb,” Ed says. “You don’t forget to write it down, and you get all the information.”
And instead of information being left in the dairy, the data recorded is used to generate reports like cost of production, sales records and treatment history. “Doing a cost of production before AgriWebb was just a nightmare,” Rhian says. “There were bits of paper everywhere and you’d lose track of things and have to start over.” Now, it’s simply a matter of pushing a few buttons and AgriWebb generates the report automatically.
Building a better business
Having accessible records empowers the Brays to make decisions backed by data. “It’s going to enable us to be a lot more selective and monitor the performance of particular animals, rather than picking animals by eye,” Ed says.
That data will only grow more valuable in the years ahead. “We’re heading towards selling breeding sheep and having all that information on hand, with all the record keeping we’re doing, is a selling point,” says Rhian.
“There’s going to be a premium for breeding sheep that have as much background and information as possible,” Ed says. “It takes out a lot of guesswork, and you know that when people buy those sheep, they are going to deliver the goods and thrive.”
Farming for the future
The Bray’s have invested in technology and are building superior breeding stock to secure the long term success of the family farm.
“We’ve got two daughters, and one of the drivers for us building a resilient business is so that there’s a viable business for them to become a part of,” Ed explains. “Part of that is implementing new technology and showing them how we’re going to make the job work.”
The Brays are excited about the future of farming in the UK. “There’s going to be challenging times ahead, and there’s going to be some changes,” Ed says. “You’ve just got to decide whether you want to take your business forward and be someone who survives or are you going to be a victim? We’re confident that we’ve got a future in sheep.”