Cumbrian farmer joins Grass into Gold
Roger Bacon, our North of England grass expert, is now working with Carl Walters – a tenant farmer at Low Hullock Howe, in Bampton, near Penrith, Cumbria. Low Hullock Howe is a hill sheep and suckler cow enterprise that covers 250 acres of land and has fell grazing rights on Bampton Common – an extensive area of moorland near to the town of Shap.
Carl’s animals, which he looks after with his wife Ruth, consist of 500 Swaledale fell sheep; 400 Swaledale crossed sheep; 40 suckler cows; ten Bluefaced Leicesters and ten Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep.
Carl, who has farmed at Low Hullock Howe since 1991, signed up to Grass into Gold after receiving an email from the Barenbrug team, calling for new recruits in the north west.
As a general rule, Carl reseeds around 10 acres of grass a year and in the past has used mixtures that have performed inconsistently. In total he has 10 acres in arable rotation and the rest is permanent pasture. Around 50 acres of grass are mown twice a year to produce silage – with another 20 acres given over to hay meadow.
Working with Roger, Carl wants to improve the overall productivity and management of his grass, while keeping inputs as low as possible. As a starting place, Carl has been overseeding an area of 15 acres with clover provided by Barenbrug. The next step is for Roger and Carl to sit down and work out a plan of action for autumn and spring 2018.
Growing more grass that sheep and lambs love!
Steve Penberthy, a first generation sheep farmer from Helston, Cornwall, has signed up to Grass into Gold. Steve, who farms at Trewithick – a 500-year old tenant farm on the south Cornish coast – and sells his lamb under the name of The Cornish Lamb Company, is working closely with Latham Gibbins, our south west of England grass expert.
Together, Steve and Latham will be looking at grass and brassica species utilisation at Trewithick; soil and prevailing weather conditions; plus common weeds and pests. Specifically, they are also going to try to extend the quality of winter forage on the farm by using a split of brassicas, which is two thirds Barabus turnip / one third Barcoli rape. With different maturity dates, this balance of planting can help ensure consistent feed levels with the rape maturing just as the turnips are grazed off.
Trewithick needs to produce enough forage, grazed in situ, to sustain a 300-strong flock of Poll Dorset, Pedigree Lleyn and Highlander ewes. With each breed lambing at a different time of year, there is no room for error in Steve’s grassland planning.
Steve said: “Our breed mix means we have to work incredibly hard to guarantee a constant supply of feed from our 100 acres. Demand is high throughout the year: our Dorset ewes lamb in December; the Lleyns produce in February; and our Highlanders lamb in April. When it comes to grass, we are doing well but I’m sure there’s more we could be doing. I look forward to working with Latham to gain a fresh perspective on our grass and what we could be doing differently with brassicas.”
Latham said: “In a set up like Steve’s, careful decision making is key. As well as using quality grass and brassica varieties that are persistent, productive, and which sheep and lambs love, all other aspects of good grassland management must be optimised for success. Currently, Steve reseeds every two to five years, which is ideal, so our focus will be on other grass- related aspects. As well as assessing brassica usage, we’ll be looking at how to tackle common grass problems such as crown rust; how to manage clover levels; and adjusting stocking rates according to variety.”