Two West Country beef farmers have topped a nationwide competition for excellent growth rates in calves and finished cattle, winning a new Honda quad bike for their efforts.

The annual Weigh to Win competition, run by the precision farming network Breedr, saw hundreds of farmers recording their cattle weights throughout the winter period from December 1 to March 31.

Topping the table in the under 12-months category were James Griffin and his wife Oonagh who run a TB isolation unit, which provides an outlet for calves from TB-restricted holdings lacking the facilities for rearing.

“We get the animals in at 12 days old; they have two TB tests - one at 60 days and one at 120 days - and after that they can be sold,” explained James.

His winning group of 56 calves averaged an impressive daily liveweight gain (DLWG) of 1.35kg over the four months, which he attributes to Oonagh.

“I think women are far better at rearing calves than men. They are more observant and notice what the calf was like yesterday, what it’s like today. I would be wandering along the front of the pens, chucking the food in - with my head full of the next job.”

Max Parr won the over 12-month category. He looks after 1,000 cattle on his 1,500-acre beef and arable farm in Devon.

“We buy store cattle and take them through for finishing. We keep the cattle for about 60-100 days so they aren’t here very long before we sell them on for meat.”

Predominantly a beef business, a lot of the arable land is used to grow crops for feed. “We grow wheat, barley, maize, grass and fodder beet in rotation,” he said.

Max Parr

With the cattle kept predominantly indoors, they eat a mix of home-grown cereals, grass and clamp silage.

Buying all his cattle either off-farm, through markets or on the Breedr app, the main reason he weighs them is to spot the underperformers.

“When we see which ones are underperforming, we can work out why and see what we can do to help them - even if this just means selling them on to slaughter earlier in the process.”