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Big changes for all on the Chugg family farm

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: April 11, 2013

FAMILY: Karen Chugg and daughter Melissa, Kenny Blackmore, and Pam, Harold and Trevor Chugg.

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Dairy farmer Harold Chugg could not bear to watch when his milking herd went for auction. While the bidding at Sedgemoor soared beyond expectation he was back on the farm near Kings Nympton, unable to witness the departure of the herd his family has nurtured for more than 30 years.

"I would have been in tears if I'd been there," he said.

The event marks his retirement from full time farming and sees a shift in direction for the farm at Great Lightleigh.

It's time for his son, Trevor, to take the lead, which means concentrating on beef cattle on their 270 acres.

"Beef will be more manageable and I will be investing," said Trevor, a burly 39-year-old whose passion for farming is as big as his father's.

"If you don't go forward, you get left behind."

Trevor has not married yet and is realistic about what he can do on his own as his parents slow down and hand him the reins.

He said: "I'm hoping to have a system where one person can look after 400 cattle.

"With dairy farming there are intense pressures financially, large commitments and ties. It's seven days a week, and twice a day milking and finding staff is a big problem.

"On too many occasions I've found myself with two or three people's work to do."

Trevor has helped his father on the farm since he was a boy and his mum, Pam, has done the book work and other tasks while raising Trevor and his sister, Karen.

Harold was barely 20 when he came to Great Lightleigh in 1968 with his mother and sister, Elma. His father and grandfather had both died three years before during their tenancy at Hollomore Farm, near Tawstock.

He said: "I decided to stay in farming and we came here with 25 cows and bought 175 acres.

"Since then we've bought more land and rented more, and there have been more than 400 animals here for the last year or two."

Dairying is clearly in his blood but he respects his son's decision: "With his being single the biggest issue we see in dairy farming today is there's a lot who like milking cows, but there are more that like driving a tractor. And if there isn't family coming on it makes life difficult.

"There hasn't been enough money in the milk, there isn't a big enough margin."

"We always seem to be on the back foot with dairying," said Trevor.

"Even though milk prices are at record high levels it doesn't match the feed costs."

With the decision made and the cattle sold, Trevor has already invested in new machinery to keep a growing herd of beef cattle happy.

"I hope to have time to go and source cattle, go to market or even have a day off," he said.

The sale, by Greenslade Taylor Hunt, saw prices exceed Harold's expectations and the family recognised many local buyers for their cows.

Trevor was alongside the auctioneer for the bidding.

He said: " People turned up as friends and also to buy cattle. They appreciate the work put into the herd over the years."

His father is proud that many of the cows have come back from the sale to neighbouring farms.

What of the future for Harold and Pam? "Well I'm not one for gardening," said Harold. "Although I'll be retiring I'll do whatever work Trevor wants me to do.

"My plan is to help him at very busy times, like harvest and drilling."

Pam said: "We've not had much time off. We might have a few breaks."

The auctioneers said a combination of excellent sires and milk yields among the herd generated the interest, creating a packed ring well supported by neighbours and buyers from Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wales.

The sale averages were: Dairy cows and heifers £1,716.50; calved heifers £2,047.50; served heifers £1,128; bulling heifers £903; younger heifers £637; heifer calves £472.50; and 125 head £1,440.

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