A recipe for success

Features Posted 05/10/17
From a herd of Guernseys, established just after the second world war, to an agricultural merchant specialising in animal health, farming has always been an integral part of the James family’s livelihood.

After inheriting Borovere Farm, in Alton, Hampshire, second-generation farmer Richard James, transformed the then dairy farm into a 2,000-acre arable estate with a beef suckler herd, finishing up to 800 cattle at any one time.

It was in 1992 that Richard recognised a local need for animal feeds. Under the name Hampshire Feeds he began blending and mixing feed, with deliveries going out on a tractor and trailer within a 10-mile radius of the farm.

The last 25 years have seen Hampshire Feeds develop into a flourishing family business, now named Farm & Country Supplies. While Richard James continues to manage a 110-strong suckler herd, sons Ryan and Arran are now proudly driving the firm forward with its expansion.

Having kept many of Richard’s original customers, through exemplary levels of service, clients often reminisce to Ryan and Arran about the times they used to collect goods from a small shed in the corner of Borovere Farm’s yard.

A true credit to its success, Farm & Country Supplies quickly outgrew each of its premises, before a bespoke 11,000 sq ft warehouse and 2,500 sq ft showroom was created in 2014 to cope with the increased customer demand. Although Ryan admits that space at Borovere Farm is still needed occasionally to keep up with orders.

“When the Old Dairy site was being knocked down and developed, we were operating out of half a building. Stock was being kept in the grain dryer across the road and every day we would bring across the fast-moving goods and all our deliveries would go out from the main storage area,” said Ryan James, managing director of Farm & Country Supplies.

Pinpointing the cause

Operating from the aptly named ‘Old Dairy’, Farm & Country Supplies now specialises in the animal health sector, with a specific passion for dairy hygiene.

Its team of experienced dairy hygiene specialists enable customers to take advantage of a full support package. From dairy hygiene audits and analysis of bactoscan results to help pinpoint the origin of problems, the team can also help to flesh out effective hygiene protocols.

In times when milk prices are low, it can often be tempting for smaller farms to hold back on expenditure and forego some otherwise routine procedures. However, savings at one end can sometimes prove costly further down the line.

“In an ideal scenario, you will check for early signs of mastitis before milking,” said Ryan. “The forestrip prevents the spread of mastitis causing bacteria, and allows you to detect any issues. If everyone followed the perfect protocol then issues could be detected, and treated before they spread too far.” The estimated economic losses from one single case of clinical mastitis in Western Europe ranges from £178 to £267. However, costs of clinical and subclinical mastitis are often underestimated. Although udder damage, vet fees and treatment bills are noticeable, these visible costs only account for around 15% of the total cost of clinical mastitis.

Indirect consequences and subclinical mastitis can easily be overlooked. Costs soon stack up when considering the time spent treating animals, discarded milk, decreased value of milk sales and, the main economic consequence, reduced milk production.

“The effects that mastitis can have coupled with the costs, mean that even simple preventative measures are well worth investing in. Farmers need to establish decent protocols with effective products,” said Ryan James.

Farm & Country Supplies works with the best in the business. An exclusive partnership with Dutch company, CID LINES, gives its customers in the South East access to a wide range of product solutions alongside the latest technology.

The Purefoamer system is a revolutionary new time saving product for use preparing cows udders for milking. The system is vacuum powered and ensures that every teat is fully immersed in Kenopure foam to remove any organic matter and kill any bugs present; this ensures the milk is as clean as possible and the teats are left in great condition benefiting both the cow and profits. The Purefoamer & Kenopure combination is available exclusively through CID Line dealers.

When one of Farm & Country Supplies’ customers Mr Bradford was looking for a pre-milking regime that all his staff could use, he chose the auto foamer with the power of Kenopure from CID Lines. Previously Mr Bradford was using a pre-spray, the application of which varied depending on the member of staff milking. Since switching, every teat is foamed leaving the teats clean and consequently improving the teat condition with Somatic Cell Count (SCC) falling from 190 to 120. According to Mr Bradford, the foamer helps with cross contamination of SCC and using CID Lines Kenocidin spray as a post-spray has also benefitted the herd.

In conjunction with the M-Team from the University of Ghent, CID LINES launched a unique computer programme to help farmers optimise udder health, monitoring and treatment.

The Keno-M software provides immediate insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the farm’s udder health management and can generate reports with key findings and make recommendations.

“As long as the farmer is willing to collect and share the data, a vet from CID LINES will input the information into the programme. It will instantly pinpoint what is causing the mastitis, whether it is originating from a specific cow or if it is being caused by environmental issues,” explained Arran James, head of procurement at Farm & Country Supplies.

Described as just one of the ‘step ahead’ services they can offer, Ryan and Arran see the technology as the future of mastitis management and prevention.

A winning product

Following mastitis and reproductive failure, lameness is the third most important issue modern dairy farmers must tackle. As well as exacerbating mastitis, metabolic illness and fertility problems, lameness also hurts profits.

According to the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, an incident of lameness costs around £180. When taking into consideration treatment expenses, loss of yield and shortened productive life, across an average-sized herd this figure can quickly escalate to well over 1p per litre of milk produced.

Endeavouring to provide customers with the best possible solutions, Farm and Country Supplies has invested into the research and development of its own cure for lameness.

Currently, farmers can choose from short-term solutions which either harden the hoof and cover the infection, or products which condition the hoof but have inconsistent results in curing the infection.

“Over the last two years we have been devising, our own footbath product,” explained Ryan. “The solution we have come up with is a combination to cure the infection as well as conditioning the hoof. Unlike other formulas on the market it will not cause a burning sensation, which will help prevent hold ups from cows trying to avoid the footbath. The farm trials have proved it to be effective and we believe it is going to be a winning product with global potential.”

With Ryan and Arran currently finishing the registration, trademarking of the product name and recipe, and finalising the packaging before it goes into production, release of the new formula is imminent.

Hands-on approach

Built into the company’s ethos, the Farm and Country Supplies team strive to provide customers with superior service, generated from their wealth of experience.

Alongside the James family’s livestock knowledge, ex herdsman Trevor Samways, dairy hygiene and animal health specialist, combines over a decade’s experience in the dairy sector with an in-depth understanding of the sheep industry. Trevor is a member of the National Sheep Association South East Regional Committee.

“We take a very hands-on approach when it comes to providing customers with the best possible service,” said Ryan. “We all have first-hand farming experience and it helps to build customer relationships. A lot of people have a lot of respect and trust in Trevor because of his knowledge. Our combined industry understanding means that we don’t just sell products if it is not going to do the right job. We want to find effective solutions to farmers’ problems and build long term relationships.”

Open to all, customers don’t have to be members either, and while being part of an organisation can often appear to be cost effective, the team have noticed many cooperative members taking advantage of their prices.

“Lots of existing customers are members of buying groups but they will still use us,” said Ryan. “They almost cherry pick our services. On many occasions we can show our farmers some considerable savings.’’

Keeping it current

With farm safety high on today’s agenda, Farm & Country Supplies has increased its range of animal handing equipment supplied by LM Bateman and Richie Agriculture.

“Having the right equipment for handling can take most of the dangers of working with livestock out of the equation,” said Arran. “As TB testing has become compulsory, our sales of the LM Bateman suporhandler have gone through the roof. It is great for sorting animals.”

The portable cattle forcing pen with 3-point linkage comes with forklift channels so it can be transported out into the field and is considered to be worth at least two people.

The perfect fit

Modern intensive farming techniques have led to increased pressure on the ability to achieve maximum growth rates before calving at 24 months and it is now vital that calves get the right nutrition in their first few weeks.

Tailoring calf nutrition and milk powders, from Britmilk’s extensive range, is proving to be highly popular with Farm & Country Supplies’ customers as it can offer farmers exactly what they need, even if they have unusual requirements.

As well as calf nutrition, we can offer bespoke minerals formulated exclusively by Vitfoss. After a full feed, silage and forage analysis, nutritional needs can be fully satisfied without affecting the farms nutritionist.

“Sometimes farmers can balance nutritional makeup with off the shelf products, but every farm is different and it is important for us to be able to offer completely tailored products to suit exactly what the farmer needs,” said Ryan.

Nutrition is not the only service which Ryan and Arran want to make sure is the perfect fit for customers. From high yielding Italian Rye Grass, to a two year catch crop, Farm & Country Supplies has even developed its own range of bespoke grass seed blends with DLF Seeds.

“We can offer a whole package where we would supply an agronomist to recommend the most suitable grass crop for the land and the farmer’s nutritional needs,” explained Ryan. “We have a selection of our own blends and can also create a farm specific mix.”

Eyes set East

So far, integrity, respect and innovation is proving a successful recipe, as the company is now ready to expand its current Hampshire and Berkshire network into Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

“Our expansion is mainly being driven by customer loyalty and customer demand,” said Arran.

With its own logistics network, and set delivery days. The team currently pride themselves on providing a set delivery pattern for consistency and ease of ordering. Customers know as soon as they order when they are going to receive their parcels.

“Logistics will need to be reviewed as we grow further afield, and there will be a period where we may have to use other transport,” said Ryan. “But we will always try to use our own vans, because this way we know we can guarantee and offer the level of service our customers are accustomed used to.

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