Partridge Hill farmer wants his animals to thrive not just survive

PUBLISHED: 13:05 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:23 27 March 2019

Farmer Ben Upchurch with his lambs. Picture: Sam Cooper

Farmer Ben Upchurch with his lambs. Picture: Sam Cooper

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A Sidbury farmer is taking extra steps to produce healthier lambs this spring.

Ben Upchurch is the farmer at Partridge Hill Farm and is preparing for the lambing season.

With the help of his one-year-old dog Brock, Ben takes care of the animals and gives them a more humane life.

He takes decisions that will benefit the animals rather than his business such as not using breeds of lambs that have a quick turnover rate but instead ones that are healthier.

He said: “I’d rather have a stronger healthier sheep than a bigger, not so healthy sheep. That’s my ethos. It’s about having animals that thrive rather survive.”

The pigs at Partridge Hill Farm. Picture: Sam CooperThe pigs at Partridge Hill Farm. Picture: Sam Cooper

He has 25 lambs on the land he shares with Sidbury Vineyard and unlike other lamb farmers, Ben doesn’t feed his flock protein enriched food but instead lets them eat the grass around them.

He said: “With a conventional, intensive sheep farmer you’ve got bigger, continental breeds like the Suffolk. They’re bred to put on a lot of meat as quickly as possible but the drawbacks to them are they’re not a hardy animal. They have difficulties in lambing and the survival rate of the lambs isn’t very high.

“Whereas in my system, I don’t do any of that. It’s mother’s milk when they’re lamb and then it’s grass and in the winter it’s hay. I don’t give them any protein feed.”

The only feed Ben does gives his lambs is a high fibre pellet which helps them acclimatise to the new grass that grows at this time of year.

The lambs at Partridge Hill Farm. Picture: Sam CooperThe lambs at Partridge Hill Farm. Picture: Sam Cooper

Music by www.bensound.comIn 2015, Ben made the bold move from Exeter to Sidbury where he started the farm. He said: “Before doing this I used to work in an office selling school supplies to schools in Africa. Every month, I would go to visit customers in Africa. Always flying about, going to tropical, exotic countries which was wonderful. After a few years of it, you just get a bit tired.

“Then I bought this land. After I got the sheep, my boss pulled me in and said we’ve got this other seven countries were need you to visit in the next three months and I thought I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Ben says it’s a challenging life but one he loves. He said: “I can never get away because I’ve always got to look after the animals. They all need feeding and checking twice a day. Without anybody else sharing in the business, it always falls on my shoulders but it’s what I’ve chosen and it’s what I love doing.”

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