PCHS Member Profile: Simon & Claire

Simon and Claire Bainbridge farm near the village of Cambo in Northumberland, which is home to their herd of 150 suckler cows, flock of 1,500 breeding ewes and 24,000 laying hens.  With his parents moving to the farm 1991, Simon took over in 1994 and has since grown it from the 360 rented acres it was then; buying 705 acres and adding a further 540 acres of rented land to bring the farm to the 1,650 acres that it covers today.

With the entire farm being organic, the upland and moorland landscape is mainly permanent pasture, with 300 acres of red and white clovers, 50 acres of whole-crop barley and vetch and 30 acres of brassicas to be fed to the lambs.  The suckler herd is made up of cross bred Aberdeen Angus and Herefords that calve each spring with the progeny being finished before they reach 24 months of age.  A new addition to the herd is a dozen White Galloways, with the intention of Simon and Claire’s children being able to take on responsibility of them, as well as being smaller cows that can be wintered outdoors and will hopefully factor into future environmental schemes.

The herd is closed other than buying in bulls which are purchased privately and always at an equal or better health status.  Simon believes that the Aberdeen Angus and Hereford breeds complement each other, being good ruminants and finishing well off grass – essential for their system as no feed is purchased.  All heifers have a pelvic measurement taken at 14 months of ages before being put to the bull and calving at two years old, any of those with an area measuring smaller than 140cm2 or any protrusions not being kept for breeding, as well as any without a suitable temperament.  The cattle and sheep work well in conjunction with each other - the massive growth of grass in summer allows enough to be harvested for the cattle to be housed for up to 6 months of the year, resulting in lower overall outdoor stocking rates and a reduced risk of resistant worms in the sheep flock.

The Bainbridge’s have been members of the Premium Cattle Health Scheme since December 2006, having joined after suffering what is believed to be one of the worst BVD outbreaks the UK had ever seen.  The herd was naïve and not vaccinated and having just one PI calf in 2005, this then leapt to 33 PIs in 2006 before falling back to only one PI in 2007.  Although the initial source of infection couldn’t be found, the fact that the heifers were synchronised to calve at the same time is likely to have exacerbated the scale of the outbreak. 

Since gaining BVD accreditation, Simon has noticed many benefits to the herd including a marked improvement in overall health, the cattle finishing more consistently on time, no need for antibiotics, no problems with pneumonia, less fertility issues and no problems in calving heifers at 2 years old.  Although they are not currently selling any breeding stock, the current goal is to continue building up the numbers to at least 200 cows so that they can do so in the future.  In terms of accreditation the Bainbridge’s aim to improve their Johne’s Disease risk level status and continue to maintain their BVD accreditation, however Simon states that his main ambition is for his children to inherit a healthy herd without any underlying diseases.

As well as his full-time commitment to the farm, Simon is also the Northumberland County Chairman of the NFU, and is also a member of the Premium Cattle Health Scheme advisory group.  Other than the livestock enterprises on the farm, the Bainbridge’s have put a lot of effort into diversification and future proofing, with other ventures including letting out a commercial fishing lake, an equestrian facility including stables and outdoor arena and a holiday cottage opening soon in an old granary building.  At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Simon and Claire also set up a small farm shop to make their eggs available to the local community and have since added locally grown potatoes and locally produced rapeseed oil, with the long-term goal of also selling their own beef from the Galloway cattle in the shop.

You can find out more about the Bainbridge’s at their websiteFacebook Page and Twitter

Posted by SRUC Veterinary Services on 15/01/2021

Tags: PCHS