Blog: Lewis Sayers
31st December 2015
Lewis Sayers (19) is an NSA Next Generation Ambassador 2015 from Bingham, Nottinghamshire. He only entered the sheep sector in 2012 and is the youngest of the 2015 Ambassadors, but his drive and initiative means he is more than worthy of a place in the group. From tracking down the owner of an abandoned piece of land to ask for the grazing, to working for ewes instead of wages, Lewis has taken some unorthodox approaches to getting started. He has now finished agricultural college and is building up his flock (currently at 75-head) by taking grazing when he can and earning money through shepherding. He has a regular collection of friends and family buying lamb from him and is identifying local pubs and restaurants to sell to, with the dream of one day having his own farm shop.
Scroll down for entries from Lewis about his farming year in 2015.
In February I registered myself as self-employed, trading under the name of LDS Farming. With this it brought in some new jobs. For the first few weeks I took on a job putting a land drain in someone’s field, along with looking after my stock and stock on two other smallholdings. Coming up to the middle of the month it was time to attend the first of the delivery sessions with the NSA. I was filled with nerves, as I knew I was the youngest of the Ambassadors and I wasn’t sure if I'd fit in, but it turned out them tree days we all spent together was brilliant. We learnt a lot from the guest speakers and we learnt so much from going to a couple of farms. Coming back from the three days it gave me so many ideas from listing to the speakers and listening to the other Abassadors and how everyone does things slightly different. It wasn’t long and I was back to reality with working and looking after the sheep, with lambing on the horizon.
Just a week in March and so much seems to be happening! The sheep are all in ready for lambing. I’ve been contacted by my local radio station and one of their reporters is coming out next week to have a look at the sheep and to talk with me about lambing, and also there’s a possibility I might be going on the local news.
March signalled the start of lambing for me. It started off slow but soon picked up. At the beginning of March I also received a phone call from the NSA to ask if I’d be interested in doing a radio interview with the local radio station for a lambing special they wanted to run. So the second week of March the radio people came out to talk to me about lambing. They were over the moon when a ewe lambed live on air! Later on the same day I did an interview with Radio 5 Live and then the local TV news came out to interview me too. It turned out to be a manic day, but was a very enjoyable day too. There was not much more excitement that month – it just carried on lambing as normal. I had a very successful lambing, only losing three lambs that were all stillborn. My plan worked for lambing in three weeks; the teaser ram was well worth it. Once my sheep where lambed I went on to lamb the sheep at the smallholding where I work.
The start of the financial year! It was in the first week I was contacted by the smallholding to attend a meeting. I turned up not knowing what to expect, but the meeting started off talking about how lambing had gone and onto the discussion of share farming. As I’m sure you’re aware, there is no real definition on share farming; I think it changes dependent upon the situation. The meeting went well and I came out full of optimism. I was sent away to come up with ideas on how it could work and what my objectives were, and the same happened for the people that own the smallholding. A few weeks later we met again to discuss what we had come up with. Surprisingly we had the same basic idea, so we then worked together to decide what we both want. So I’m now in the early stages of share farming and it is going better than I thought. It has also caught the attention of a farmer up the road and I’m currently working with him to see if we could do a similar thing. Also with all this going on, I have managed to secure myself six days of work a week as I’ve also took on a job at a farm putting new fences up, putting water troughs in and generally helping to tidy things up.
Apart from working nothing special has happened, apart from a brilliant day spent taking pet lambs to a primary school to tell them all about lambing. All the children seemed to enjoy their day.
The start of June marked the beginning of shearing for me. I got all of my own sheep shawn and went on to do a flock of 15 for a smallholder and a flock of 35 for a farmer up the road. Once I’d got them done, I went on to building a muck clamp from rail way sleepers for a client of mine so he can store all of his muck until it rots ready for him to spread on to his grass land. After I finished that off, he asked me to build him a static catching pen and race for the sheep then another one for his cattle.
July was very busy with me, starting some work on a smallholding along-side some builders to build an extension to their house. At the same time, I was still looking after my sheep and starting to wean some lambs. I’d also just taken on looking after a few cows for a chap up the road who was struggling to do it all on his own.
August brought brilliant news when I had a phone call to tell me I’d got through to the finals of the British Farming Awards for the second year running. I still can't believe I've done it again, and I'm looking forward to going to the awards night in October. No doubt there will be the opportunity to meet lots of like-minded people. After looking after the cows for a month, I had a meeting with the chap that owned them and he made the decision to sell the cattle. owHzovfHowever, not only had he decided to sell the cows, he also came to the decision to let me have the use of his land in return for me helping him make hay in the summer for him to sell.
The building work is keeping me busy and I've started to look for some sheep to stock my new land. Alongside all of this, I'm starting to plan for putting the rams to the ewes and getting my highland cow ready to go the slaughter. It’s also getting to that time of sorting the sheds ready for bringing the cows in at the end of October.
October 2015 saw the end of what has been an amazing opportunity, being one of the NSA Next Generation Ambassadors. A lot has happened this year, both with the Ambassador sessions and the fast amounts of changes I’ve made within my business.
The NSA programme has been truly brilliant – we’ve had vast amounts of information given to us with the very generous guest speakers we have been to see and some that have come to see us. Some of the best parts for me has been listening to people and ideas I’ve never thought about and possibly wouldn’t entertain normally, but after listening to them you can take on board some of the ideas and it helps you to mould your own business into what you hope will be one of the best.
For me as well, a lot of my learning has come from sitting round a table with like-minded people and listening to how they do things. As a result of being an Ambassador I’ve gained in confidence to realise what I’m doing isn’t all wrong! And I’ve managed to implement some new changes as a result of the programme. For instance, I will be looking to buy recorded rams from now on. And also, with being new to the industry, I’ve bought in all youngstock and, after a farm visit we had, I’ve decided to try and keep my flock as young as possible. I’ll see how it goes and report back. Now with the programme coming to an end, I’m sat thinking about what I’m going to be doing in the future. I’ve decided to go up in number of sheep next year, taking me to 200 head of ewes. Also I want to increase my contract work in the local area doing fencing , farm maintenance and livestock work. I’m also hoping to go round and find some local pubs and restaurants that would be willing to buy my lamb off me. And the final goal I have is to one day lease a farm and run my business from somewhere I can call my own.