Turning down a scholarship to the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester might not have seemed the best career move and looking a gift horse in the mouth but it wasn’t Chris Timm’s way forward.
As this year’s festive season draws to a close he is in the process of making another move that has seen him take in various areas of North Yorkshire from Goole to Oldstead, Little Habton to Tadcaster and now Pickering.
Timm is a farming name well known around the show rings and livestock markets. Chris’ father David is a renowned Suffolk sheep breeder and many will recall Timm’s flour mill in Goole.
“My uncle William showed cattle and my cousin Jonathan also shows livestock,” says Chris who is currently working on a new hybrid breed of sheep as well as adding to his prowess in selling rams and bulls; indeed the reason for visiting him just prior to Christmas was down to the number of times his name has come up in conversation with other recent Farm of the Week stories.
“Grandad Bert (Herbert), who passed away about four years ago, farmed at Boothferry Farm next to Boothferry Bridge. His father had left him shares in the mill. He sold them and bought the farm that my dad then ran. Dad had 100 pedigree Suffolk ewes and could make a living out of them. He was fairly well up in the pedigree world.”
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Chris has clearly learned a great deal from his father but he is already into far bigger numbers in his farming business.
“I started with 40 ewes in order to breed tups and I now have 350 breeding ewes including 40 Suffolk, 100 Charollais, 40 Beltex and some Texels as well as crossbreds. We’ve been very successful in selling Charollais X Beltex tups in Bentham livestock market and a number of other places and we’ve won quite a few carcase competitions.
“We’re now setting on with our own hybrid breed. I’ve had the idea for five years and it has taken me four years to implement. The basis of it is a Beltex tup on to a Charollais ewe and then a Texel tup on from there. I’m going to call the breed Yorkie and it will be coming on for selling in 2021.
“Dad has always instilled into me that good stock will always pay. It doesn’t matter how bad things get people will always want quality.
“It’s not how much you make that’s important, it’s being able to survive. The way farming is going now, you have to get bigger to stay in the game. We don’t want to get bigger out of choice, it’s just what you have to do to provide for your family.
We’ve had 1,000 store lambs to fatten each of the last three years in addition to growing the various breeds’ flocks and working on the Yorkie.
We’ve also added to our Aberdeen Angus suckler herd and we’re growing what is presently a small herd of Charolais cattle.”
Chris has had darker moments on his journey, but now, with a new decade under way and his largest acreage to date, in moving to the Duchy of Lancaster-owned 300-acre West Blandsby Farm just north of Pickering, he has the bit firmly between his teeth over the future for himself, his wife Lisa, a Goole girl, and their children Alice, Izzy and Oliver.
“It’s all about continually going forward. We’re going to drive the quality. We sold around 80 tups last year of all our breeds and averaged around £700 for them.
“We recently won at Bentham Christmas primestock show and sale with a pen of Charollais X lambs that sold at £110 a piece – we attend Bentham and Bakewell regularly as our main marts; and we’ve always done well at Great Yorkshire Show whether showing the crossbreds as ewe lambs and shearlings in the commercial ewe class that we won in 2018 and had reserve champion in 2017 and 2019; picking up prizes in Charollais and Beltex pedigree classes, such as reserve female champion Charollais ewe in 2018.
“We’re our own worst enemies at times because whatever we have it has to be the best in whatever category or class. We can’t just have fat lambs either – they have to be the best fat lambs.”
Chris is currently in great shape with the move and his livestock direction, but half a dozen years ago his future didn’t seem quite so bright. “When we’d left our little farm in Oldstead because of a change in direction by the landowners I’d almost given up on having a farm in my own right. It was that bad winter in 2012 and I’d started driving a gritter for North Yorkshire County Council. I applied for a job working with Geoff and Ann Robinson on their farm at Newton Kyme.
“They’d come from a little farm and talking with them rekindled my belief I could do it because of what they had achieved.
Shortly after starting with them Lisa and I were offered the tenancy of our farm in Tadcaster, which has set us up nicely for our latest move. There’s a saying that it doesn’t do any harm to struggle, because that way you find your own way.”
He says: “I went away to boarding school in Durham until I was 17 but I didn’t want to go back to education after that. I just wanted to farm. That’s what I’ve always wanted.”
‘When I was at home, before I went to boarding school, I would be halfway across a field on my way to help a neighbouring pig farmer and I’d have to be hauled back to go to school. When I was at boarding school they had a herd of Highland cattle, so I ended up being head cattle man and even showed them.
“There was little point in me going to Cirencester. Home at that time, after having lived in Galashiels from being two to 12, was Winifred Farm in Amotherby and in my late teens Boothferry Farm with my dad. I never wanted to go away to school again.”
Cattle have remained a passion. Chris has had a herd of Aberdeen Angus for over 20 years since he sold a flock of 30 Border Leicester ewes and on the strength of his father’s advice bought four cows.
“He said I couldn’t put the money into the bank as it would only disappear.”