Case Study: Stephen Doble

Beef and arable farmer Stephen Doble finishes 120 Angus cross cattle for ABP’s Blade Farming scheme in South Oxfordshire. All cattle are grazed on the floodplain and finished on cereals and silage, grown on the farm. We spoke to Stephen about his experience with Gamechanger:

I am a 4th generation farmer on a mixed family farm in Oxfordshire. The farm is mainly arable but we have 170 acres of grass on the flood plain where we graze 120 Gamechanger cattle. We take on 3-month-old weaned dairy cross calves and take them through to finish at roughly 20 – 21 months old.

For me, Gamechanger reduces a lot of the risk as we do not have the capital tied up that we would on other, more traditional schemes. The price we are paid is related to the cost of production meaning ultimately, we can boost our profit. We get regular help from our dedicated Blade team who provide us with support throughout the process as well as helping us draw cattle when they are ready for slaughter. On top of this we receive nutritional advice from the feed partners Mole Valley, and a subscription to AgriWebb.

AgriWebb is used throughout the supply chain meaning the rearing farms can pass on information about individual animals to us. We are then able to provide the end user with full visibility of how we have treated the animal. AgriWebb makes movements a lot easier and allows us to accurately track weights which is a huge help.

Sainsbury’s are always looking for ways to help us improve our systems. Recently they provided us with access to Ruumi, an app that uses satellite imagery to help manage grassland, as well as access to James Daniel, a grassland consultant. This support has improved our knowledge and grassland management practices, which has meant that we have reduced our fertiliser and concentrates costs. It has helped us focus on improving our grazing, something that I have always wanted to do and I now have the support in the background to help me do that.

As an individual farmer it is daunting to know how to tackle all the challenges that the industry is facing. However, to be in a partnership with a company the size of Sainsbury’s and to be working together as a team makes the challenges a lot more doable.
A few seasons ago we were buying cattle and the beef price plummeted, we just about broke even. We now know that we have locked in a profit, if we forward buy our concentrates when the cattle arrive on farm.

Gamechanger has reduce the amount of capital we have tied up in the beef enterprise, we have locked in a profit, and we have a huge amount of support in the background.