PFLA chairman mixes farming with parliament
The business of politics keeps Bill Wiggin, Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire, away from his farm in the week. But at weekends he farms full time, looking after the cattle and the 18ha of permanent pasture. During the week, his wife and farming neighbours keep an eye on the livestock.
“I was fortunate enough to be born on a farm and I always wanted to have cattle. But it wasn’t until 2003 that I bought my first Hereford cow and have been slowly building up numbers since then.”
Bill chose Herefords because they are a robust, native breed that will generally look after themselves. The cows are served with easy-calving sires and calve without human assistance. The calving jack has never been used.
He selects AI sires on their Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for calving ease and growth rates in particular. The reward of this research is seen in the Breed Index Values of some of Bill’s bulls – reaching as high as 52, with the breed average lying at 30.
The pedigree herd prefix is Parliament and one of the current homebred bulls is called Parliament 1 Prime Minister.
“Herefords are so adaptable and they grow well on just grazed grass and silage and hay in winter. They live as a family group with the bulls, cows and suckling calves. Calving takes place all year round, but with most giving birth in winter when they are housed.”
The cattle are healthy and the vet is rarely called. The herd has a high herd heath status and regular testing is carried out for diseases such as BVD, Johne’s Disease, IBR, Leptospirosis and Neospora. Some of the cows go on until they are 13 or 14 years old, although Bill usually sells them once they have reached nine years.
Bill does not apply artificial fertiliser to the grassland but spreads farmyard manure from the cattle shed in spring. He has never reseeded and sprays against thistles most years. Costs are kept to a minimum – the biggest bill comes from the two, second hand Case tractors.
Pasture for Life
At the start of 2018, Bill saw on The Hereford Cattle Society website that the PFLA was looking for a new chairman.
“I suddenly found an organisation that was already advocating the way I farm. The members are passionate and innovative and producing high quality food in a truly sustainable way.
“I am excited to be at the heart of the PFLA as we move away from the Common Agricultural Policy towards farming that delivers more public goods. This is the perfect time to take the organisation’s certification mark ‘Pasture for Life’ forward, to raise its profile and broaden its appeal to consumers as the healthy meat and dairy option.”