A HEREFORDSHIRE farmer has been named the top beef farmer in the country at a top award ceremony in London.

Simon Cutter, who farms the last remaining council holding in the county, was named Farmers Weekly's beef farmer of the year at Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane in front of a packed audience of farmers and industry representatives.

Mr Cutter, who farms Model Farm in Hildersley, near Ross-on-Wye, has developed a low-cost suckler beef enterprise as part of a diverse, fertility-building crop rotation.

He is also a founder member of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) and farms to organic and PFLA standards.

Farmers Weekly said after the awards on October 7 that Mr Cutter has an innovative and enthusiastic approach.

Along with his close engagement with the local community and beef customers, they are just a few of the things that made him stand out as a worthy winner.

Beef farmer of the year independent judge and consultant with 5Agri Consultancy Group Ian Cairns said: "Simon Cutter is a pioneering and innovative farmer who knows the nutritional value of his pasture-fed beef and has developed a farm system to meet demand for it."

The Beef Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by ABP. English writer, comedian, and actor Russel Kane hosted the top awards.

The business employs two full-time butchers and specialises in supplying beef for customers following "stone-age" and "keto" diets, which favour grass-fed meat, as well as those interested more generally in a high-quality product.

Beef is sold online through Primal Meats and Back to Nature, via a local box delivery scheme, or at the farm's shop attached to the butchery cutting room.

He runs a split-block calving system for his herd of pedigree Poll Hereford cows. Year-round finishing ensures a consistent supply of beef for the farm's butchery and shop.

Two animals are slaughtered each week at 24 months, with a target weight of 620kg liveweight off forage only.

In the early days of the farm's Higher Level Stewardship scheme, now 20 years old, he got a derogation to outwinter and bale-graze his cows to reduce cow maintenance costs.

"Everyone thought I was totally loopy, but starting from nothing it was the only way I could do it," he says.

The herd is part of Scotland's Rural College's premium cattle health scheme. Breedplan is used for herd recording and to maximise the traits available in a major breed, Mr Cutter said.

While he retains some of the last remaining British Poll Herefords, his focus is on New Zealand genetics, which have been "a revelation" in terms of improved performance off grass.

Mr Cutter uses estimated breeding values (EBVs) to drive improvements in the herd. Having successfully selected for maternal placidity, calving ease and longevity – cows have at least eight calves – the focus now is improving marbling and eye muscle from forage-type bulls.

As well as grass, grazed rotationally, and clover-rich herbal leys, lucerne is grown for protein and to counter drought.