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Farming is changing like never before. The opportunities are out there. CLM offers new ideas with traditional values.

INSIDE Fruit Focus – looking forward to welcoming everyone, face-to-face Nigel Akehurst visits an ex-intensive dairy farmer turned cattle mob grazier

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® SOUTH EAST FARMER Kelsey Media, The Granary, Downs Court Yalding Hill, Yalding, Maidstone, Kent, ME18 6AL 01959 541444 EDITORIAL Editor: Malcolm Triggs Email: Photography: Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic PUBLISHER Jamie McGrorty 01303 233883 GRAPHIC DESIGN Jo Legg 07306 482166 MANAGEMENT CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Steve Wright CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Phil Weeden MANAGING DIRECTOR: Kevin McCormick PUBLISHER: Jamie McGrorty RETAIL DIRECTOR: Steve Brown RENEWALS AND PROJECTS MANAGER: Andy Cotton SENIOR SUBSCRIPTION MARKETING MANAGER: Nick McIntosh SUBSCRIPTION MARKETING DIRECTOR: Gill Lambert SUBSCRIPTION MARKETING MANAGER: Kate Chamberlain PRINT PRODUCTION MANAGER: Georgina Harris PRINT PRODUCTION CONTROLLER: Kelly Orriss DISTRIBUTION Distribution in Great Britain Marketforce (UK) Ltd, 3rd Floor, 161 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9AP Tel: 0330 390 6555




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NEWS & REPORTS New legislation on dog attacks welcomed by sheep farmers Expressions of interest in SFI pilot top 2,000. One year on for the Rural Policy Group.


NIGEL AKEHURST VISITS... Nigel visits Lomas Farm in Sandhurst, Kent, to talk to ex-intensive dairy farmer turned cattle mob grazier David Cornforth.







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Temperamental ‘climate’ doing strange things


There can be few complaints about the weather over the past few weeks, with much-needed rain followed by a decent spell of warm sunshine giving meadows and crops a welcome boost at just the right time of year. As I write this, more rain is forecast, but unless that turns into an unceasing torrent – and that’s not what is predicted – it will come as a welcome relief rather than as a threat to what looks set to be an impressive harvest. The worry is that with our temperamental ‘climate’ (such as it is) continuing to do increasingly strange things, this year’s decent growing conditions have almost certainly come about ‘more by luck than judgment’. It would be a brave man who would bet against next year throwing us another meteorological curve ball. A report by the independent Climate Change Committee last week predicted that climate change will hit the UK harder even than we were expecting, producing severe heatwaves coupled with more intense rainfall that will bring increasing flood risk to most of the UK. Readers who have tuned in to the excellent Amazon Prime series featuring Jeremy Clarkson’s decision to bring his Cotswolds farm back in hand will have been reminded of just how damaging floods can be. I’ve never been a fan of Top Gear – I preferred it when it was a programme about cars – but the thoughtful, more nuanced Clarkson is a skilful presenter, and the images of the flooding that devastated his land last year were striking. As Clarkson begins to understand the difficulties and pressures facing UK farmers, we can only hope that viewers who are initially attracted by his accident-prone persona and cavalier attitude to the job will see beyond that and emerge with a more realistic, perhaps even more sympathetic – view of those who toil in the fields to fill their supermarket shelves. In the meantime, we need to look for innovative ways of mitigating the seemingly inevitable havoc wreaked upon us by the weather. The good news is that there are plenty of people looking for solutions, including a Berkshire partnership that has brought together the volunteer-led Pang Valley Flood Forum (PVFF), researchers at the University of Reading, landowner Englefield Estate and the Environment Agency. The partnership has installed 64 ‘leaky dams’ on tributaries of the River Pang and is reporting considerable success in helping to “slow the flow” of the river and reduce the risk of flooding. The natural barriers – fallen trees in the main – allow water to pass underneath in normal circumstances but block the water as its height rises. Let’s hope this DEFRAbacked project isn’t the last. The average farmer doesn’t have a media celebrity’s deep pockets when it comes to picking up the pieces of a MALCOLM TRIGGS - EDITOR weather-wrecked harvest.

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Time is running out for European workers, including those who play a vital role on fruit farms across the South East, to apply for the settled status that will allow them to stay in the UK. EU nationals have until 30 June to apply for the right to stay or face becoming illegal immigrants overnight. Without settled or pre-settled status, they will be unable to work, open a bank account, access healthcare or rent a home. Pre-settled status is granted to those who have been here for less than five years and can be ‘upgraded’ to settled status after the five years have elapsed. Employers are being urged to help their European staff with outstanding applications, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. They have to tread a fine line between offering help and demanding evidence of settled status, which could breach employment or privacy legislation. “There is no legal basis for businesses to ask staff if they have applied or obtained settled or pre-settled status,” explained Ian Robinson, Partner at global immigration firm Fragomen. “In fact they potentially face discrimination claims if employers insist staff tell them. “Over 5.4m people have applied for settled status in the past two years, with 53% having been granted settled status and 44% granted pre-settled status, yet there are many Europeans that have yet to apply.” The complication has been caused by the Government’s decision to extend a six-month ‘grace period’ to EU workers following the UK’s departure from the European union at the end of 2020. During that period workers could present a European passport and employers could carry out ‘right to work’ checks, but the employees would not necessarily have a right to stay. When the grace period ends later this month, some of those workers may find themselves outside the law, but employers are not allowed to demand evidence of settled status or threaten to dismiss someone who does not provide it. While there is no legal responsibility for employers to check whether or not an employee has applied or been granted settled status, Fragomen is urging companies to have a “gentle conversation” with staff and offer to help them and their families to apply. “Employers face a tricky challenge,” explained Ian, adding: “We would, however, urge employers to talk to all their staff, not just those who are European nationals, and offer help and guidance with applications. There is now a degree of urgency.” • EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who were in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 are eligible for settled or pre-settled status. The online application is straightforward and takes around 20 minutes, but applications can take up to four weeks to be processed.



A sheep farmer who has lost tens of thousands of pounds as a result of her animals being attacked by dogs over the years has welcomed new legislation designed to tackle the problem. Caroline Harriott, who keeps sheep on several downland locations in West Sussex and the Weald, said she was relieved that proposals in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would give the police new powers to tackle livestock worrying as well as extending the range of animals protected. “I estimate that we have had around 100 sheep injured or killed by dogs over the past 10 years,” she told South East Farmer. “At the very least each incident will have a financial cost of £100, not to mention the time taken to deal with it and the distress caused. At the other end of the scale, if you lose a breeding sheep to a dog attack the costs can run into thousands of pounds.” The former chair of West Sussex NFU has had regular meetings with the police, including one recently with Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and Chief Constable Jo Shiner, and has worked hard to promote the Take the Lead campaign that encourages dog walkers to behave responsibly in the South Downs National Park. She also petitioned her MP, Tim Loughton, for a change in the law. Another recent victim of irresponsible dog ownership is Hugh Passmore, who farms near Worthing, again in West Sussex, and who lost a ewe to an attack by two dogs in April. Police have spoken to the owner and investigations are ongoing, but in the meantime the farmer believes he is out of pocket by around £1,000. “We came across the attack while it was going on, which was absolutely horrendous,” he recalled. “The ewe had to be put down, with the vet bill and disposal costing around £300. We then had to take care of her two, week-old lambs – and there is the lost income from potential future lambs to consider. “A week or so later we had a single lamb attacked but with no sign of the dog or its owner. Both attacks were horrific, stressful and wasted so much time. It took the rest of the sheep a week to settle down.” Both Caroline and Hugh want the courts to be able to impose higher financial penalties, although Caroline welcomes the fact that under the existing proposals anyone convicted of allowing a dog to worry animals will at least end up with a caution on their police record. “At the moment someone can be arrested and taken to court, but the penalty falls far short of reflecting the carnage caused by their dog,” she said. “The problem is particularly bad on the edge of urban areas, where commercial dog walkers are often trying to control several animals, including rescue dogs and breeds that have been designed to hunt and kill. “In one sense this is not so much a crime as simply carelessness, but it can have a devastating result. Only if they get penalised will people think about acting differently. It’s a simple message really - if your dog is on a lead it’s not going to cause any damage.” Hugh added: “I am hoping there will be more of a deterrent and more incentive for people to keep an eye on their dogs rather than letting them run free and off the lead. We need the deterrent of bigger fines as some people aren’t listening, however hard you work at hammering home the message.”


NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said dog attacks on livestock had “a massive impact on farm businesses, both practically but also emotionally for a farming family” and welcomed the Government’s “clear action to strengthen the law in this area to give police more powers and tackle a growing issue for farmers“. The NFU also wants to see a clear rule that dogs should always be on a lead around livestock. “We believe the current wording that a dog has to be under ‘close control’ around livestock causes confusion for dog owners, farmers and the police,” said Stuart. The National Sheep Association also welcomed plans for stronger legislation on livestock worrying but agreed extra police powers should have been further backed up by a significant increase in the maximum fines. Chief Executive Phil Stocker commented: “This was an opportunity to create a major deterrent to this antisocial behaviour by substantially increasing the maximum applicable fine alongside more proactive measures to prevent attacks occurring. DEFRA and ministers responsible for English legislation are missing a trick in not taking the opportunity to increase fines in line with what the Scottish Parliament has done.” > Caroline Harriott and Meg

NEW RULES WILL PROTECT GAMEBIRDS The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has welcomed the announcement that enclosed gamebirds will be included within the enhanced livestock worrying legislation planned for England and Wales. The move to add enclosed gamebirds to the list

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of animals protected by the legislation is included in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill and was welcomed by Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and gundogs. He said: “Expanding the scope of the legislation and introducing new powers to tackle livestock worrying is welcome news for the

farming and gamekeeping community. The issue of livestock worrying is as distressing as it is devastating – any action to safeguard livestock is to be supported. “Out of control dogs can cause havoc to enclosed gamebirds on the rearing field and in release pens.”

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AN INTEREST Updated information has been published for those who submitted an expression of interest (EOI) in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) Pilot. Published on 7 June, it confirms the eight standards available and that monthly payments will be made from the start of the agreement to test the new payment structure. Participants will also be paid £5,000 a year for contributing to the pilot and to co-design work. The latest information is at DEFRA has announced that more than 2,000 farmers have expressed an interest in joining the pilot. Alongside the Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes, the SFI will form the upcoming Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) offering. The Tenant Farmers’ Association is inviting members who submitted an EOI to take part in a TFA focus group on the scheme, with further details available from Farm Policy Adviser Lynette Steel on 0118 9306130.


The Lords have thrown their weight behind the UK’s farmers by joining demands for agricultural standards to be protected in trade negotiations with Australia. The House of Lords International Agreements Committee has called on the Government to provide clarity on the negotiations on trade in agricultural goods. The committee has asked the Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Kt, a number of questions, most of which relate to the UK’s reported offer on market access and the extent to which Australian production methods, including animal welfare standards, threaten to undercut British farmers and undermine the UK’s high animal welfare standards. Lord Goldsmith, Chair of the International Agreements Committee, who pointed out that the Australia deal would “set a precedent for other trade negotiations” – including those with the likes of the US, Canada and Brazil – said it was looking for assurances from the Government on “how it will uphold its commitment to protect British farmers from unfair competition and not compromise on the UK’s high animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards”. He said they were also asking for information so that they could “assess to what extent any damage to farmers could be offset by the additional export opportunities the Government claims will be available when the UK accedes to the trans-pacific trade bloc”.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021



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LETTERS Dear Sir, We were very pleased to win the crate of Biddenden Cider last month, particularly as our business is celebrating 100 years of trading in 2021. As yet I have not tried it, but it is on the cards for the end of the season, which has been an exceptional one for us. W Godfrey & Sons Ltd is a wholesale nursery based near Woking. It specialises in the production of hardy perennials, destined mainly for the landscape and independent retail sectors, and was started in 1921. Because the site is quite large and the layout of the nursery is generous, we were fortunately able to trade throughout lockdown, with the blessing of Health and Safety Executive inspectors. The year proved to be very busy, with many businesses requiring stock either for their own sales or for work projects. This demand may have been in part due to Brexit-related issues on imports at the ports but may also have been caused by lockdown heightening domestic demand. Restrictions have meant that our centenary celebrations have been muted, but we have been giving our customers sticks of commemorative Brighton rock to enable them at least to imagine a small glimpse of summer. We are keeping the prize cider back for our own use! Edwina Bridle W Godfrey & Sons Ltd


Dear Sir Congratulations to your colleague Nigel Akehurst on his outstanding feature on the fibre farmer near Petersfield in your June edition. I have visited the farm several times and the well-illustrated article summed it up perfectly. The most exciting bit about the farm’s activities for us is that it demonstrates how a relatively small family farm or smallholding can integrate a successful social farming enterprise, to use Nigel’s words “…part of the solution to the growing mental health crisis”. Many more family farmers can improve the lives of up to four people with just 12 day visits a year. Visitors enjoy supervised, regular farm jobs according to age, choice and ability. We think the expanding trend of social farming enterprises is not just an opportunity for individual farmers offering job satisfaction and income but a PR present for UK agriculture as new support policies move towards public money for public goods and services. Stephen Sellers, Independent South East Regional Network Co-ordinator, Social Care Farming



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The Rural Policy Group (RPG) came to the fore in 2020 as the world shifted dramatically in response to the changes forced on it by the coronavirus crisis. The group was founded in 2019 to support and promote the farming community and the wider rural economy, but it came of age last year, launching the Rural Economic Development (RED) talks that helped harness opinion and share ideas as the Covid-19 pandemic caused worldwide social and economic disruption and Brexit loomed. RPG chairman Mark Lumsdon-Taylor told South East Farmer that it was a conversation with Sarah Calcutt, Executive Chair of the National Fruit Show, that sparked the idea of a series of webinars designed to provide rural business owners with the information, business support and hope they needed to weather the storm. “At that point we could not have known how quickly it would grow,” he said. No-one could. In the first year, more than 1,000 businesses from 25 countries worldwide attended the talks in total. Here, Mark tells the story: “Since the first RED Talk took place in April 2020, lessons from the pandemic and lessons from Brexit have reshaped how many people view the world. Farmers have always known that their industry is a subset of the environment; now the rest of the economy is waking up to the fact that we cannot make a healthy profit without healthy people and a healthy ecosystem. “RPG evolved to lead this systems-thinking

approach from a rural-first perspective. The rural economy is the engine of sustainable growth, but it needs support to achieve change, and so we integrated economic social governance (ESG) and health and social care into our vision for a greener, more equitable economy led by a respected and profitable food and farming industry. “Together with our guest speakers, drawn from politics, science, business, medicine, policy and academia, we have tackled topics such as agritech with Neil Parrish, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, food security with Luke Pollard, Shadow Environment Minister, and mental health with Sir Norman Lamb, formerly both a health and business minister. In July we turn our focus to the electrification of farm vehicles as part of the journey to Net Zero. “The talks are getting rural business heard by policymakers in Parliament and change-makers in industry. We also lobby hard to raise the importance of rural communities and the rural economy in government policy-making; rural life has too long been underfunded, undervalued and underestimated. “Last year we submitted a well-received report to government highlighting the concerns of the farming community. It addressed issues around food security, profit share within the supply chain, consumer behaviours around food, technological innovation and the types of government support the industry needs. “What it all boils down to, however, is food

> Mark Lumsdon-Taylor pricing, and this became one of our central pillars. How we fix the food system so it is profitable for all and provides the country with an affordable nutritious diet is something we will continue to research, debate and lobby for. “None of this would have been possible without our network of partners and members of the advisory council, who give their time and expertise enthusiastically in support of our shared aims: a thriving, well-respected rural economy driving a sustainable, equitable UK plc.” Mark Lumsdon-Taylor is a senior corporate consultant for MHA MacIntyre Hudson & the seconded chief financial officer for a leading fresh produce food manufacturer. He chairs the Rural Policy Group in addition to a number of non-executive appointments in London and the South East.


Farmers in East Sussex will be asked to vaccinate badgers as part of a major, large-scale badger vaccination trial. DEFRA announced at the end of May that the government had awarded £2.27m of funding to enable farmers to administer the vaccinations over an area of the South Downs spanning 250sq. km. The government says the results of the five-year trial will help inform how it rolls out future vaccination schemes at scale across England, as part of its plans to phase out badger culls. The licensing of new intensive badger culls, which DEFRA says have effectively helped reduce bovine tuberculosis rates (bTB) by half in certain areas, will end after 2022, while existing cull licences could be cut short after two years in cases where this is supported by scientific evidence. Trials of a bTB cattle vaccine are expected to begin this summer, with the aim of enabling a vaccine to be rolled out by 2025. In the last year, more than 27,000 cattle in England were slaughtered to tackle the disease.

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REGENERATE AND RESTORE THEME The Hampton Estate in Surrey will be illustrating how farming fits with the environment when it offers tree planting, worm digging and forest bathing as its contribution to the 15th LEAF Open Farm Sunday (LOFS), a celebration event that has been organised by Linking Environment And Farming every year since 2006. Once a dairy farm, the Hampton Estate now focuses on grass-fed beef, hops and forestry, together with let arable land, and – from July – a pop-up, off-grid campsite. With environmental and social sustainability at the heart of the Hampton ethos, their Open Farm Sunday event on 27 June will highlight a ‘regenerate and restore’ theme. It is being hosted by Molly Biddell, who, as an Ambassador for LEAF Open Farm Sunday, is looking forward to helping her parents, Bill and Bridget, run the event at Hampton Estate for the third time. “We love connecting people with what we do, and we’ve always done it in

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some way or other, from bringing schools on to the farm to selling our beef direct from the farm gate,” she said. “We are one of the closest LOFS farms to London, and it’s great to welcome people from the city. This year has created a perfect opportunity to engage with the public. There’s heightened appreciation of local communities, of food and green spaces, of the planet. Visiting local farms will be viewed more than ever as really important and interesting.” Molly will be recreating a popular activity from 2019, a woodland walk with a quiz to identify different tree species. At the end, visitors have the chance to plant a tree as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Project and to grow the LOFS woodland that was started in 2019. There will also be a forestry demonstration and the chance to ask the forestry team questions. Other activities include a wildlife meadow for birdwatching, digging for worms, meeting goats, chickens and the Hampton cows, question time for the local vet, a gun dog demonstration and learning about the estate’s pasture-fed system.

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UNDER COVER This month Nigel Akehurst visits Lomas Farm in Sandhurst, Kent, to visit ex-intensive dairy farmer turned cattle mob grazier David Cornforth.


David, along with local farming colleague and friend Fergus Henderson, is part of a small but growing community of ‘regenerative mob graziers’ in the South East. Both are ex-dairy farmers now in their early sixties. They started experimenting with mob grazing around 10 years ago after David and his family returned from a year working on a dairy farm in New Zealand. “After renting the land out, we as a family with four young children went out to New Zealand for a year to help out a friend with a share milking job on the Canterbury plains. “It was out there I realised the advantages of rotating animals through paddocks and resting the grazed plant,” he said. Returning home from New Zealand in 2003, David was faced with an empty farm and very few assets with which to restock, so he worked off-farm for six

years, renting out ground to graziers while increasing a small herd of his own. As the herd grew, he took all the land back in hand and moved his few animals around the land daily. Being understocked it took a long time to graze the whole farm and he began to notice the grass grow longer, especially in the autumn. This allowed David to keep his cattle out grazing until much later, when all the neighbouring farms (who set stock their cattle) had lost farm cover and were having to house their animals. Around the same time a woodsman friend of Fergus mentioned michorizal fungus and suggested they read Graham Harvey’s books. They both then began researching the topic in more depth; reading reports and watching YouTube lectures around soil health and grazing practices. “Regenerative Nuffield reports such as the ones

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by Tom Chapman, Rob Richmond and latterly Andy Howard really whetted my appetite and thirst for knowledge – going back to school in my fifties,” he said.


Before his trip to New Zealand, David had farmed with his brother in his native Yorkshire, where he grew up. In 1996 he bought Lomas Farm and moved south. He brought a small herd of dairy cows with him and in doing so moved from a relatively low but profitable milk production to a high input, high maize inclusion diet feeding system. After a few years it became clear the system wasn’t sustainable. “It was hard on the cows, hard on me as a one-man band but worst of all it was destroying the farm’s soil,” he said. “The heavy clay soil and yo-yoing between too wet and too dry made it difficult to

establish maize crops with the small area of summer grazing being continually over grazed.” After a couple of loss-making years in early 2000, the hard decision to sell the cows and quota was made.


Arriving at Lomas Farm, just off the A268 on the outskirts of Sandhurst, Kent, I found David, fork in hand, aerating a large pile of free wood chip. This, it turns out, is just one of his many cost-saving measures, enabling him to reduce the amount of bought-in straw. Where the majority of farmers in the local area are housing their stock for between four and six months, David claims he has managed to reduce his housing to between 45 and 90 days. It’s a remarkable achievement, given his land is predominantly heavy Wealden clay and his lower-lying fields are prone to flooding in the winter. This year David turned out on 16 March, with his animals spending 56 days “under asbestos” – enough for any bovine in the Kent Weald, he added. By cutting his winter housing, David has been able to reduce his bedding and feed costs significantly. Last year’s straw cost was cut to just £5 per head (over 120 average head of cattle), helped by using free wood chip. Silage cost was £30 per head. Bought-in hay to bale graze on the pastures during the shoulders of the season was around £20 per head. Other costs include diesel and compost spreading charges of around £10 per head. No artificial fertiliser, wormers or concentrates are used and recently David has stopped using loose minerals/pre calving tubs. >>

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> David Cornforth


• Bought Lomas farm in 1996 after farming with his brother in Yorkshire • 118 acres of pasture (of which two are silvopasture) • All animals grazed in one mob (of between 105 and 135) where possible; return grazing varies between 45 days in fast growing periods and 120 days when grass growth is not as favourable • 45/50 suckler cows plus their calves plus their previous year’s calves • Cows are mated using DIY Ai to Belgian Blue or Lim sires from the genus stud • Majority of cows calve during the short housing period and go back to the grazing mob as soon as the calf is strong enough • Aim to sell stores at 500kg live weight through Ashford cattle market • Opportunistic purchases are made from time to time in the form of thin cows and their calves or anything that appeals, so depending on the time of year the mob size varies between 105 and 135.

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David has gradually built up a suckler herd of 45 to 50 suckler cows over the past 12 or so years since taking the farm back in hand. He artificially inseminates all the cows himself, mostly with Belgian blue or Lim sires (from the Genus stud), calving in early spring during the short winter housing period. He runs all the cows, calves and previous year’s calves in one mob of between 105 and 135, moving them multiple times a day. From the farmyard where we meet you can see down across the valley, over David’s 118 acres of pasture and beyond to the neighbouring farms. David points out his mob of cattle in a small paddock in what appears to be a sizeable field at the bottom of the valley. It’s interesting to note the patchwork of different shades of green created by his mob grazing.



A quick recap for anyone unfamiliar with mob grazing. It can be defined as short duration, high density grazing with a longer than usual grass recovery period. The practice has been shown to hugely improve soil, grass re-growth and cattle health. As already mentioned above it can also help lower costs by saving on bought-in food, fuel and labour. In 2012 David set about putting in the infrastructure to start mob grazing, electrifying the whole farm and dividing the fields into lanes with single strand electric wire and ‘endless’ polypipe. He spent any spare time grappling with understanding the recent lectures from world-

leading soil microbiologists such as Elaine Ingham, Christine Jones and Kris Nichols, along with leading farmer practitioners such as Greg Judy, Joel Salatin, Gabe Brown, Dr Allen Williams and the late Neil Dennis. As David’s understanding of soil and regenerative practices grew, he was baffled that little to none of this information was available from our own research and advisory bodies. He now believes attitudes towards regenerative agriculture are slowly changing, with more coverage in mainstream farming press and wider adoption within the industry.


With nearly 10 years of mob grazing under their belts, David and Fergus are keen to share their experience and knowledge with other farmers in the South East. Key to making mob grazing work is the planning; dividing up your fields with good quality electric fences and a mobile water system. David recommends using a mains fencing unit if possible, as it provides a more stable current and is less susceptible to shorting from tall grass. He spent around £1,000 on a mains unit from KiwiKit installed near the farmyard. It has a remote control that sends a signal anywhere on the fencing system to enable him to switch it on/off at the touch of a button. A worthwhile investment he says, though you can manage with mobile units or solar battery powered ones these days. If possible, try to use a thicker gauge steel wire for your

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permanent electric fences. David has set up a number of semi-permanent electric fences around the farm using thicker gauge steel wire and wooden posts with plastic insulators. Many of these follow the old field boundaries, and where the fields are larger he has divided them into smaller blocks, which he then further sub-divides with his fibreglass posts and lighter gauge wire into smaller grazing cells for his daily moves. These small paddocks are quick to set up and take down. David demonstrated setting up a new paddock of around a third of an acre in less than 10 minutes – reeling out the wire and putting in posts as he walked in one pass. He then reeled up the wire and collected up the posts of the previous front fence. He used a geared one wire KiwiKit PAC reel supplied by Progressive Farming Company (see picture) which costs around £150. These can be configured to hold up to three reels for sheep fences too. To further automate the process, David is able to move his mob of cattle several times a day with the use of batt latch gate releases, automatic gateway release timers. Just before the timer goes off, it makes a beeping sound – the cattle equivalent of the dinner bell – and the cattle lift their heads up and start moving to the gate, eager for a fresh bite. Watching them eat, they graze at different levels, some going in low and others just taking the tips off the grass. They even seem to like the few docks available. Water is supplied by underground polypipe from a bore hole at the top of the farm. Multiple

hydrants are located around the farm, providing easy access to tap into with a drag trough attached to a 100 metre length of blue pipe. David recommends installing a bore hole. He installed his in 2018 at a total cost of around £10,000 and estimates that the system has already paid for itself, saving around £3,000 a year on his mains water bill. Whilst all this kit does add up, compared to a new tractor it’s relatively small change. “Farmers don’t think twice about investing tens of thousands in a new tractor or building, but when it comes to infrastructure they often make do with old-fashioned, inadequate, time-consuming kit,” he said.


While David’s mob of cattle seemed unaffected by the heat, I was curious to learn whether or not the cattle struggle with the lack of shade? He pointed out that by keeping the grass relatively tall, the ground temperature is kept cool. This compares favourably to set stocking where the grass is often much shorter and the ground a lot hotter as a result. I asked how long the grass is rested after it has been grazed by the cows. “Return grazing varies from 45 days in fast growing periods to 120 days when grass growth is not as favourable,” he replied.


Neither David nor Fergus have planted herbal leys on their farms, and while they say diverse grass mixes can be beneficial, the leys often

revert to what grows well locally. They have also noticed the practice of mob grazing has improved their pasture, with more clover and different types of native meadow grasses apparent.


They don’t use fertiliser on their land now, adding that not only is it expensive but spreading nitrogen can suppress the natural clover in your sward. Clover left to its own device will draw down and fix nitrogen from the atmosphere for free. The last time David spread fertiliser was in 2014, to kickstart a new seed ley, after which he sold the remaining bags left in his shed to a local farmer. He now aims to keep adding fertility back by mob grazing his cattle in tight groups, creating an even spread of cow dung.


Instead of feeding hay bales in round feeders, David rolls out bales of hay for the cattle to graze (called bale grazing) during the shoulders of the season. Again, this helps spread fertility and prevent poaching of the soil when it’s wetter. To make life easier he built his own unrolling tool, copied from plans on the internet, which he hitches on the back of his farm truck.


Yes he does, and in the past few years David has

spent more time creating better compost to spread on his land by regularly moving the mix of winter housing dung, wood chip and straw with his old Matbro tele-handler. “What I am noticing is the move to composting has really helped the poorer soils become more productive as I think it fosters soil life rather than killing it as anaerobic muck tends to do,” he said.

ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? Regenerative farming isn’t neat and tidy, David admitted. “The first few years can be a challenge, with more thistles and docks.”


David and Fergus are active members of the countrywide WhatsApp group set up by two Scottish brothers who are leading the movement. They also recommend joining the Pasture for Life Association (PFLA) discussion group, which has an active forum about grazing management along with other topics such as selling meat direct.


Over the years both David and Fergus have noticed a change in climate, with warmer drier summers and wetter winters. With our heavy soils, the only sustainable method to tackle this is by improving your own soil. By building more soil organic matter they hope to improve the water infiltration and availability in their soil. “Each 1% increase in organic matter holds 25,000 gallons of water per acre,” they said.


> David with Fergus Henderson

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Through impressive cost cutting measures and low overheads, David has managed to create a profitable business model that year on year is improving his soil, not degrading it. All his cattle are sold as strong stores through Ashford cattle market, aiming but not always achieving his goal of 500kg live weight. Depending on the trade, he often achieves £1,000 per head. In the future both David and Fergus hope to continue to increase their stocking density as their soils improve further. At some point they hope to combine their two herds, creating a larger mob of cattle to graze other blocks of land and in so doing enable them to take more breaks. I left Lomas farm inspired to try mob grazing on our own family farm. As I was leaving, David mentioned I should check out Groundswell – the Regenerative Agriculture Show and Conference at Lannock Manor Farm on 23 and 24 June. Both he and Fergus have been loyal fans since its inception in 2017. This year they are expecting 3,500 delegates. Having just booked my ticket I may see some of you there!

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a £7m investment to further enhance facilities at the farm and beyond to ensure students are exposed to the latest cutting edge technologies, including robotics in the dairy and a brand new state of the art high welfare and RSPCA assured pig unit. Coupled with this, the college’s new farm shop and café open in Brighton this summer, providing the perfect opportunity to demonstrate and educate students in every aspect of the supply chain relating to British produce.

Up to £35k per annum


So whether your area of expertise is livestock, arable, machinery or agri-business, we’d like to hear from you.


Find out more & apply:

Alan Johnson, curriculum manager at Plumpton College, reports on this month’s student activities.

14 > Isaac Adams

Our courses are ideal for students who want to learn more about the broader aspects of agriculture. They prepare students well at the start of their career and continue to support them as they progress onto the next level of qualifications, giving students the opportunity to develop skills at a higher level and to develop their managerial abilities. Our courses allow students to develop underpinning knowledge while practising skills that are essential in the agricultural industry. We focus on practical work and hands on experience, with classroom sessions to help build the foundations. At Plumpton College students benefit from excellent facilities and expert staff. Students study a range of subjects including livestock husbandry, machinery and crops. They will have an opportunity to work on the college farm and undertake work experience. Their work will be a balance between gaining theoretical knowledge of animal and plant systems and practical work to underpin this theory. Below is a summary of activities that students have been involved with over the past month.


What I enjoy about studying at Plumpton College is that I not only gain vital practical experience but also get taught theory in the classroom. I enjoy the mix of both. Over the past year at Plumpton I have learnt about many different topics such as soil science, plant science, crop production, livestock production, managing environmental activities and many others. In soil and plant science we learn about the science that goes into farming and how important it is to know about the soil and the intricacies of crop growth. In my crop production lessons, we learn all about the arable side of the industry, that includes the growing of crops, soil preparation, harvesting and grain storage. In livestock production we learn about the different methods of farming livestock and the importance of animal welfare. In my livestock lessons we have also been taught

> Faye Pierce

about slaughterhouses and the strict laws they must follow to ensure they meet the high animal welfare standards of the UK. In managing environmental activities, we learn about how to look after the land, create habitats for wildlife and hedgerow management. This is important knowledge to have as the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) is based on how farmers are working with nature. We have been taught a lot about ELMS and what this means for the future of farming; both the positives and negatives of the scheme have been spoken about in class. For myself, not being from a farming background, it shows that there is more to being a successful farm manager than I first thought, and I definitely want to learn more.


In the past month there has been a variety of tasks going on at the college farm and at home on our farm. Worming lambs was the first big task of the month. We do this to prevent the lambs from getting parasitic worms which may lead to lack of condition and scours. If they get a build-up of faeces on their tail area it can lead to fly strike which causes the lamb extreme pain and discomfort, so regular checks are required. There are many ways to reduce the incidence of worms. Clean grazing regimes stops them from picking up worm eggs on contaminated pasture. This is done alongside worming and follow-up faecal egg counts. The next task in this busy month is to start shearing on the farm at home. I have completed some shearing instruction at college which was very helpful. We have started with our Romney tegs (last year’s ewe lambs). We sheared them first so that we could get them out to their summer keep being confident that they would be easily cared for and able to keep free of parasites. Sheep farmers shear their sheep for many reasons, but in particular for animal welfare, to make sure they can keep cool in the warmer months and reduce the risk of parasitic infestation and disease.

Visit the website for further information on how to sign up:

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TRADE DEALS, GOOD OR BAD? Trade deal discussions with Australia and New Zealand have brought into sharp focus the threats posed to UK agriculture from opening our borders following Brexit, writes Peter Knight, managing director of Burgate Farms Ltd, Hambledon, Surrey. The trade deals being pursued with Australia and New Zealand would be the first major agreements that did not simply roll over existing EU agreements. As with all things, the devil will be in the detail yet to be published, but the tone put across by the headlines does not bode well for some sectors of the industry. Some will say it will not affect arable farmers. Australia is the other side of the world, with markets much closer than the UK. I would say it is not that straightforward; if cheap beef and lamb enters the country because of this agreement, our livestock sector will suffer, with a knock-on effect of less home-grown grains being consumed in feed rations. The arable sector is directly influenced by world commodity prices and trade flows around the globe. Add to this the vagaries of the British climate and it is easy to explain the volatility being experienced in wheat and oilseed prices over the past few months. Less easy to understand is how trade deals, tariffs and quotas interact with world supply and demand, something I do not pretend to understand. What I do understand is the difference between being a net importing or exporting country; when it comes to the wheat price there is a swing in the price of between £8 and £12 a tonne. In many ways we are better off with slightly lower yielding crops producing a UK harvest of around 13 million tonnes than we are with barn-busting crops giving a total of 16m. It’s not easy to accept that less equals more, but it also makes for an easier time at harvest, with less to move, dry and store. Having said that, like most in our area last year my stores were a sad sight after harvest, not much more than half full, with room even to get the combine inside before selling anything. We are hoping for full stores this harvest; the combine can stand out for a few weeks. As primary producers of globally traded commodities we need free trade to be able to export our surpluses, but on the flip side protection is needed from cheap imports produced to lower standards than allowed in the UK. This is the crux of what needs to be fought for in order to keep the so-called ‘level playing field’. There are many examples around the world of chemicals and production systems that are not available to us as growers but which could end up in imported produce.

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We have the climate in the UK to grow crops efficiently and, given equal terms, I am confident we can compete. Both agriculture and the country as a whole are committed to moving to net zero, which is likely to increase costs either through increasing input costs – think possible nitrogen tax – or indirectly by the ever-increasing burden of environmental legislation. We all need to embrace the changes required, but unless equivalence is a must on all imports we will just be exporting our environmental conscience. Harvest is always a hectic time for all. The long hours can make it stressful, there is always pressure

to push on because it’s going to rain, we need to finish so we can move the combine first thing in the morning, etc. Please think about the health and safety of both yourself and staff; the appalling accident record of agriculture continues, and is not acceptable. Health and safety is 90% common sense. Stop and think before rushing into a task; you can have as many policies as you like sat on the office shelf, but they will not help unless everybody pauses and thinks. Wishing everybody a safe, bountiful and breakdown-free harvest.

> Peter Knight


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“Be careful what you wish for,” I thought, as I gazed in horror at the ewe with twins who laid flat out with rasping breaths and frothing mouth. Perhaps the taste of the three magnesium buckets out in the field were not to her liking. Her lambs had retreated to a safe distance and watched as I administered treatment by subcutaneous injection. I desperately willed the ewe to continue breathing as I wondered: was I too late? What gives farmers the greatest headache, zero grass or phenomenal grass growth? It seems both scenarios come with their own set of problems. On the plus side we’ve already made some silage and are keen to commence hay making. With an abundance of grass and sunshine, it’s looking promising for replenishing our barn stores. Our new mower has been unpacked from its box and stands in our farmyard looking very shiny and bright; these heavy crops will be a good test for it. Just as lambs recover from joint ill, some are starting to limp due to soreness caused by the long grass. I haven’t needed to footbath the flock for several years, but this year it will be necessary. The majority of my sock lambs have been weaned. The initial fun of feeding lambs soon wears off; mixing milk and cleaning equipment is a time consuming chore. That said, there are some great characters. We used the alphabet on these, rather than numbers, I wasn’t responsible for the names: Aphrodite, Brutus, Carlos, Donny, Ecstasy, Fabio,




Greta, Horacio, Izzy, Josie, Kinky and Loopy. This gang is now frolicking in the field, with access to a creep feeder. I pity any footpath walkers because this inquisitive bunch push, shove and nibble while on escort duty. The gang has no fear and is ever hopeful that a bottle will be produced; in other words they are a complete nuisance. I really should wean Number 81, who has a daily bottle; he lives with the flock. When called he runs like a greyhound and greets me so enthusiastically, I haven’t the heart to disappoint him. I really must toughen up – at this rate I’ll be carrying a bottle into market for him. Lamb 129 wasn’t thriving; a single with an attentive mum who’d plenty of milk. He was so weak I intervened, bringing him into the shed. I

> Sheep seeking shade

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found him drinking water in preference to milk, so I gave him limited access to his mum and supervised feeding. He progressed well, gaining strength to the extent that one day he broke out of his pen. He was on his way to his mum when I witnessed ewe number 70 viciously attack him for no apparent reason. Sadly he died as a result. I was horrified and his mother was devastated. Number 70 was in the shed because her own lambs, initially healthy, had mysteriously developed injuries. Social services’ sheep equivalent might like to investigate. Number 70 will be culled. The nappy lambs were in the house, running with the dogs for my convenience. The grandchildren found this hilarious, convinced their Grandma had lost the plot. Maybe true, but

these lambs needed a few days of ‘little and often’ feeds. It was a temporary fix and now they are nappyless, having moved to a pen in the garden. Naming them would seem like tempting fate; from slow beginnings they are now happily improving. One had problems with bloat and I tried all sorts of regimes and treatments; interestingly natural yogurt has been the most successful. Enough sheep stories… can you tell that I don’t get out much these days? Despite having received two jabs I’m strangely reticent about going off farm. Watching the news convinces me that I’m happy to stay put, lucky to live and work in the countryside. After all there is never a shortage of things to do on the farm. I don’t seem to miss socializing – maybe I’ve just lost the knack of it. I feel like it may take some time to readjust to the aftermath of Covid-19. We may have to learn to live with it. I do enjoy belonging to farming groups on Facebook; the chit chat amongst like-minded people is both entertaining and informative. One thing that really bugs me these days is scams. I’m totally fed up with answering the phone to machines. “The fraud squad for Amazon, £1,100 has been taken from your account, press one.” I slammed the phone down. The landline is particularly bad for this. But my mobile is not immune, it sounds like a young child: “Our records show that you’ve recently been involved in an accident.” I press the red button. Text messages: “You missed your delivery this morning.” Delete. Surely more should be done to stop this bunch of rogues. I grew up understanding the concept that “nothing in life is free”, which makes me sceptical when it comes to handouts. Even when applying for grants there’s a part of me that feels uncomfortable; I hate jumping through hoops as I like to be my own boss. But the modern world seems to embrace this way of living. I recall years ago treating a farmer in the hospital; a cow had trodden on him. He told me how he’d received a load of forms from MAFF and how satisfying it was screwing them up and throwing them in the bin. Then another farmer informed him it was worth £20,000 so he described fishing them out of the bin and straightening them out. Money talks. The media has made much of the proposed lump-sum retirement scheme for farmers. The proposal looks like a minefield. Consultants/ advisors etc will probably gain the most out of it. It would be better if government concentrated on helping young entrants get into farming. The youngsters will need optimism, resilience and adaptability in abundance. I would advise them to celebrate the wins, learn through the losses and enjoy living. I’m celebrating the grass growth. Luckily my ailing ewe pulled through.

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> Cows appreciating the breeze on the marsh

> The ‘nappy lambs’ brushing up on how to make money (unlikely to include raising sock lambs) >New mower ready to go

> Weaned, out on pasture with access to creep feeder


> First picking of strawberries > The gang waiting to escort anyone or anything

> Number 70 is not to be trusted

> No 81, whose enthusiastic greeting is unrivalled

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We are all so looking forward to welcoming everyone, face-to-face, to Fruit Focus again this year after 16 months of lockdown, writes Alli McEntyre, Portfolio Director, Fruit Focus. While we were overwhelmed by the positive response to last July’s virtual event, we know that nothing beats being physically present on site. Seeing what exhibitors have on offer up close, visiting with colleagues, interacting in the seminar theatres and getting a feel for the latest tech innovations will be a proper treat for the senses after more than a year of deprivation. Naturally, we will be adopting necessary biosecurity measures as recommended by local and UK government to protect our exhibitors and visitors. Every decision has been made in close consultation with leading health and safety consultants. Biosecurity measures include: • Outdoor venue with fresh air and sunlight • No/low touch technologies • Provision of sanitiser and hand wash stations • Increased fresh-air ventilation and sunlight in indoor spaces • Good maintenance/sanitation • Frequent high-touch surface cleaning • Maintaining two-metre distancing (advisory measure) • Face masks/shields (advisory measure)



FACE-TO-FACE So, what can you expect from this year’s event? As usual, we have a great mix of exhibitors, NFU Fruit Forums and research tours, offering a range of technical advice, hands-on experience and practical know-how. Covid-19 and Brexit have been challenging for the UK fruit industry, so our speakers will offer some practical answers and guidance to help you move your business forward. Of course, Fruit Focus wouldn’t be Fruit Focus without our amazing exhibitors and visitors. Whether you’re looking to buy the latest tech, research a new product or simply catch up with old acquaintances, this is the place to do it. We are here for you – that’s the point of the event. So come along to catch up with new exhibitors and friends, learn from others and generally have a fantastic day out. We’re pleased to be back.

2021 VENUE

Fruit Focus is pleased to be returning to NIAB EMR, located in Kent, England. NIAB EMR has a history dating back to 1913 when it was established by the fruit growing sector to address the many challenges faced by growers. Since then, NIAB EMR has introduced wideranging advances to horticulture which have shaped the way produce is grown and supplied to the consumer. Today, NIAB EMR’s mission is to conduct high-quality strategic and applied research in horticultural and environmental sciences and to deliver knowledge, products and services that benefit public and private customers. NIAB EMR’s vision is to be recognised as the preeminent research institute in the UK, with a significant international reputation for strategic and applied research.

Farm and Equine

Plastic Recycling Scheme

Crop Nutrition for Maximum Growth

32 sites across England 01793 842062 The professionals in rural recycling



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Meet us at Fruit Focus Stand 602

To book an appointment:


Wednesday 21 July 2021, 9am to 6pm Car parks open at 8am. Gates open at 8.30am, when caterers open for breakfast. Stands and features open at 9am

“British Strawberries, so berry good for you!”


– Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill

NIAB EMR, New Road, East Malling, Kent ME19 6BJ

Ticket-Alt TICKETS

Please pre-register at and print your badge at home due to biosecurity measures. Tickets purchased online are £10. Tickets can also be bought on the day but pre-registration is recommended to avoid queues.


FOR FRUIT INDUSTRY ArborAgri are proud to distribute what can be described as “amongst the best machinery” for the fruit industry. Their three brands are CIMA sprayers, Seppi Flail Mowers and Fischer Rotary Mowers. Both Seppi and Fischer also offer cultivation equipment for vineyards and fruit crops. CIMA have been at the forefront of sprayers for fruit since they pioneered their Venturi sprayers back in the 1970s. Their choice of spray heads is exceptional, as is the coverage they achieve. The all-new, factory designed GPS control system provides even greater ease of use. Seppi produced the first mulching mowers for grass and prunings back in the 1970s and today offers a huge range of mowers and stone crushers from 20 hp to 500 hp. So, if you are just keeping the place tidy, crushing stone or pulverizing stumps and roots, there is a machine for you. Fischer produce Rotary mowers. There is a huge choice with around 550 variants. Fischer’s product/machine quality is paramount to the company, with over 50 years’ experience ensuring long life and reliability.



We offer excellent quality at a very realistic price. Contact Andrew on 07974 566060

s are more than just big and ® Driscoll’s Zara Strawberrie sting your immune system. boo for t grea also ’re sweet, they

Pick them fresh at all major UK supermarkets ARK2103 BG Jess Ennis-Hill A5 ad.indd 1

19 16/06/2021 14:44

Our growers share our passion to improve yields and quality, challenge the status quo and develop new technologies. • Advisory services for top, soft, stone and vines • In-house laboratory services • Bespoke training courses • Independent suppliers of biological controls, foliar feeds & fruit trees

more than advice Fruit Advisory Services Team LLP Crop Technology Centre Faversham Kent ME13 8XZ t: +44 (0) 1795 533225 e: w:


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Event opens


Welcoming remarks from DEFRA


NFU Fruit Forum: Securing sufficient labour through 2021 and beyond With recruitment more challenging than ever, hear from NFU Horticulture board chair, Ali Capper, alongside a seasonal pilot operator and DEFRA representative on what is being done to mitigate issues in 2021 and to secure long term solutions.



NFU Fruit Forum: The horticulture productivity challenge Against a backdrop of evolving farm policy, including the expected ending of the Producer Organisation scheme, and a backlog of crop protection authorisations, how can the UK horticulture sector continue to drive productivity and remain globally competitive? Speakers from DEFRA, NFU and a large soft fruit grower will explore the opportunities and challenges.


Strawberry breeding and varieties NIAB EMR launches Malling Fruits, its new commercial arm, and outlines advances in fruit quality, production period, growth habits and disease resistance in strawberry breeding, including its two latest varieties – Malling Ace and Malling Vitality Speaker: Professor Mario Caccamo, MD of NIAB EMR and Adam Whitehouse, plant breeder

Growing Kent & Medway The Growing Kent & Medway consortium’s geographical location is home to over 40% of UK high-value horticultural production and a key gateway to global markets. The opportunity for growth in the sector is significant. However, productivity in this region is under-performing in stark contrast to other regions, where investment in research and business-led collaboration has resulted in significant economic uplift and prosperity. By driving innovation and productivity throughout the agri-food supply chain, Growing Kent & Medway will deliver sustainable economic and social benefits to a region that has some of the most deprived areas in England. Speaker: Dr Nicola Harrison, Programme Director – Growing Kent & Medway Innovation Cluster


using light treatment and precision spraying reduces the amount of pesticides required which is not only a financial bonus but also helps to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. Finally, agriculture is one of the major industries yet to adopt data analysis techniques to help improve production and efficiency. Farming operations can be improved dramatically by systematic data collection. This session will explore how you can implement these new technological advances and the benefits that you will reap. Speaker: Dan Sargent, Head of Plant Sciences, Saga Robotics // Thorvald


Make every plant as good as your best The presentation will look at the different factors such as topography, system design, product selection and effective timely maintenance that can have a real impact, positive or negative, on plant health and ultimately crop yield. Netafim’s Robert Mitchell will examine issues such as poor irrigation uniformity and look at ways to overcome such challenges and ensure that each plant performs to its full potential. Speaker: Robert Mitchell, Managing Director, Netafim UK


Autonomous robots in strawberry production Advanced automation and robotics has the ability to improve current farming practices in a variety of ways. Tasks requiring manual labour, such as strawberry picking, are made easier by reducing the need to find labourers. There is a lessened impact on the environment and the quality of farmland due to a reduction in soil compaction. Robotic weeding

Optimising the effectiveness of Biologicals Biological insecticides and fungicides are set to take a greater role in crop protection programmes but getting the most from what they have to offer remains a work-in-progress. Bayer will be sharing learnings and experiences from the Netherlands and the UK to understand what results can be expected and how practices should be refined to maximise efficacy. Speakers: Jack Hill, Bayer Roots and Horti Commercial Manager and Richard Prankerd, Bayer Commercial Technical Manager


How data can improve your biological programme This session will discuss how remote sensing and data visualisation can help you optimise your biological controls and IPM programme. Each individual control has specific requirements and timings that will enable them to perform at their best. Properly visualised data can help growers make informed decisions on when and what to apply. Getting these aspects of application correct is key to achieving good efficacy. Speakers: Ant Surrage, Technical Development Manager and Alex Mathews, Technical Specialist, Fargro

YaraVita ACTISIL for root stimulus & prolonged shelf life YaraVita BIOTRAC for fruit expansion & stress relief

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Irrigation Supplies and Design

Your trusted Irrigation and Horticultural products supplier Specialising in Turnkey Irrigation projects utilising only the latest and best water saving techniques and products on the market

Come and talk our specialist Fruit team at the Yara stand, or check out our trials on display at the WET Centre. Want to be part of it? Enquire today about how you can get involved with our soft fruit trials. Giz Gaskin



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Wateruk Ltd supply a host of products including: • Water Storage Tanks • Pumps and variable speed drives • Fertigation Rigs • Filtration • Drip Irrigation • Fleece • SWD netting • Ground Cover • Drainage sheet • Algae control • Rig and Pump maintenance services • Installation services • Including all ancillary parts and fittings

Please contact Charles Tager to discuss your requirements or to arrange a site visit

• Mobile: 07964526919 • Email: •




Improving localised calcium mobility, improving marketable yield and shelf-life Plants principally take up calcium with water in the transpiration stream and it is moved via the xylem. As a result, plant tissues with high transpiration rates, such as leaves, receive more calcium. Conversely, those with low transpiration rates, such as fruit, can suffer from sub-optimal levels of calcium, despite ample availability in the soil and adjacent plant leaves. This session will discuss ways to increase localised calcium mobility and optimise calcium availability in fruit, improving quality, marketable yield and shelf life. Speakers: Laura Bishop, Technical Manager; Steve Adams, R&T Manager, Plant Impact and Mike Wainwright, Agronomist, Hortifeeds


Bayer to share understanding of where and how to fit biologicals into a programme.




Non-native pests threatening fruit crops This session will explain how the UK Plant Health Service identifies non-native pest threats and prioritises them. A number of pests that pose a specific threat to the UK fruit industry will be introduced, along with measures that are being put in place to prevent their introduction, as well as ensuring their impact is minimised should they reach the UK. Speaker: Duncan Allen, Plant Health, DEFRA


WET Centre Consortium update

17:00-18:00 Networking 18:00 Event closes

> Richard Prankerd

> Jack Hill

Biological insecticides and fungicides are set to take a greater role in crop protection programmes, but getting the most from what they have to offer without compromising yield and quality remains a work-in-progress. To support growers in their desire to make the most of what biologicals can contribute, Bayer will share new insight at a seminar at this year’s Fruit Focus event. “Grower understanding with macro biologicals such as predatory insects is well-developed, but bringing in novel insecticides and fungicides without negatively affecting populations of beneficials is still more of a challenge. It is here

where we believe that Bayer has information it can share with growers,” said Claire Matthewman, Bayer Campaign Manager for Horticulture. Jack Hill, Roots and Horti Commercial Manager, and Richard Prankerd, Commercial Technical Manager, will be sharing information gathered from the Netherlands, where the use of biologicals covers more crops and is practised on a greater scale than in the UK. These lessons will be complemented with experiences from the UK to understand what results can be expected and how practices should be refined for the future. The Bayer team will also be on hand to talk to growers at their stand at the Fruit Focus event.

Engage Agro are leading the way in Fruit Nutrition and Crop Enhancement. Come and see us at

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Stand 306 21 July 21

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Kirkland specialises in providing the fruit growing sector with machinery related solutions. Being a family originated business, Kirkland is a very friendly and passionate company where the sole priority is to provide the grower with quality solutions to machinery needs. Team members constantly strive to find new ways to help growers save on labour and downtime expenses by working closely with the largest growers in all sectors to achieve this. Visit us at Fruit Focus Stand to find out more about our full range of products exclusively for viticulture and orchards.




Agricare has over 25 years of service and experience with agriculture, horticulture and viticulture. Established in 1995, Agricare operated from premises in Canterbury and Dunkirk in Kent. In 2012, Agricare moved to the present site in Cooting Road, Canterbury, and now occupies a site of 16,000 sq. ft, including the warehouse, workshop, offices, shop/ counter with good parking facilities. The business has continued to expand, supplying top quality products covering a broad spectrum of supply. As of 2018, Agricare extended its reliable service and products to the viticulture industry, working with vine growers throughout the UK.

Full range of Venturi sprayers for exceptional coverage

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BASF supports farmers with customised and tailormade solutions along the crop cycle to meet your diverse challenges. Initium® is a specifically designed fungicide solution for use on specialty crops, such as grapes. It provides long-lasting protection against downy mildews and late blights and has an excellent regulatory profile. Initium® products are safe and easy to use and will support farmers worldwide. BASF’s next generation fungicide Xemium® controls a broad range of fungi and displays a unique mobility in the whole plant. BASF’s F500® based AgCelence® products provide further benefits, enhancing appearance and nutritional value and protecting against environmental stresses such as drought and cold.




OnePay is one of the UK’s leading providers of alternative payment solutions for temporary employees who can’t open a UK bank account. Since 2007, OnePay has given businesses and their workers the benefits of a fast, easy and efficient way to pay and receive wage payments. OnePay accounts are available for workers who struggle to open a UK bank account. OnePay gives your workers a OnePay card and account, which means you can pay them in the same way as you would pay someone with a UK bank account. OnePay helps some of the UK’s leading temporary recruitment agencies, seasonal agricultural farms and employers with large workforces pay their workers every single week.




Fera is a national and international centre of excellence for interdisciplinary investigation and problem solving across plant and bee health, crop protection, sustainable agriculture, food and feed quality and chemical safety in the environment. Fera creates and delivers integrated, innovative and expert research services and products for our partners in crop protection, chemical and animal health companies, as well as food producers and growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We also support and work closely with governments, academia and leading research organisations.






Royal Brinkman UK focuses on developing new modern solutions and applications for growers, such as 30MHz and the BIO Chopper. Royal Brinkman UK has also introduced the Agrobio Bumblebee pollinators and biological crop protection insects into fruit, food crops, seed treatments and ornamental plants, all of which have seen the use of pesticides and other chemical products in horticulture decrease significantly in recent years.




Growing businesses need support. Whether that means quick delivery of the highest quality and most reliable growing media, materials and equipment, advice on increasing yield, keeping pests at bay and protecting your plants or access to flexible financial solutions and energy services, Fargro can support you. With more than 70 years’ experience of supporting growers, Fargro has developed deep knowledge and expertise across every horticultural sector. Professional growers in the Fargro community are able to tap into this specialist expertise by calling to get tailored advice by phone, requesting an expert visit to your premises, or by coming along to meet us.




Haygrove has been innovatively growing berries, cherries and organics for over 20 years, and now grows around 500 hectares in four countries. Haygrove has farms in the UK, South Africa, Portugal and China. It also designs and manufactures field-scale commercial polytunnels, substrate and associated growing systems for many of the best growers in the world. The business model is to constantly improve growing systems for the benefit of customers by understanding the commercial pressures of growing themselves.


Celebrating its 40th year, FAST is proud to continue to provide a full range of support to all our growers, giving much needed stability and reassurance in these changing times. While we too are learning different ways of doing business, our priority remains to give the best independent and fully comprehensive guidance to our fruit growers, just as we have done for the past 40 years. FAST LLP has a specialist team of advisors providing unbiased advice, encouraging the drive to achieve improved yields while developing new techniques. This advice is underpinned by our highly experienced, in-house laboratory staff who provide full nutrition assessment from soil to leaf. All our staff share our commitment to investigating alternatives to the ever-decreasing range of chemical pesticides available and a passion which propels us to challenge new ideas and traditional methods. With our predilection for science and fact, which drives our in-house research and development, Fruit Advisory Services Team is ready to meet the everchanging challenges each new season delivers. FAST will continue to be there for your support, advancement STAND and development now, as much as we ever were.


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RECRUITING 30,000 Growers looking for picking teams will be able to take advantage of the expertise on offer from AG Recruitment following the company’s successful opening of new offices in Ukraine. Recruitment expert Doug Amesz, who runs AG Recruitment with wife and fellow founder Estera, has been racing against the clock after being named as one of four agencies selected by the Home Office to recruit the 30,000 workers allowed into the country this year as part of the seasonal workers pilot scheme. “We are delighted to have been given the chance to support UK fruit and veg growers in this way and we are excited about helping to deliver on the objectives of the scheme, although it has been a race against time,” Doug said. Doug used to recruit from Bulgaria and Romania, but with workers from those countries now less keen on coming over to the UK because of the additional costs they face post-Brexit, AG Recruitment has switched its focus to Ukraine, which is outside the EU. That has meant setting up four new offices, recruiting and training 15 new members of his team to staff those offices and essentially setting up a new business, but the good news is that the STAND Ukrainian workforce is, in Doug’s view, “as good as any we 644 have recruited in recent years”.




Dejex Supplies is a progressive, family-run business specialising in commercial horticultural and agricultural supplies. With years of experience in the horticulture and agriculture industries, Dejex focuses on good quality, traditional service achieved by understanding customers’ needs. The team knows it takes more to run a nursery or a farm than lorry loads of substrate and fertiliser. With over 3,500 products in stock, Dejex is committed to stocking a wide range of sundries from PVC pipe fittings and valves to PPE and knapsack spares.




Renowned for reliability and innovation, NP Seymour’s range of tractors, sprayers, mowers, cultivation equipment and more ensures that farmers and growers of specialist, high value crops can produce the best quality and yield, in the most efficient way, year-on-year. Cementing the link between crop and consumer, NP Seymour also provides modern, efficient grading and packing solutions for packhouses and the state-of-the-art winemaking equipment it supplies is used by many leading English wine producers.




IWS’ focus is on developing effective and environmentally friendly disinfection products, catering to and providing solutions for a diverse range of industry sectors. IWS is the manufacturer and distributor of biocidal disinfection – XZIOX®, which over recent years has proved itself to be one of the leading, unique bacterial control solutions for water treatment in the UK. IWS’ solutions for all water and wastewater needs are supported by the company’s track record in numerous industries. Our mission is simple; keep water treatment simple but effective.

W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1




Reducing the amount of water needed to grow high quality, full-flavoured strawberries while at the same time optimising the yield of the crop is now achievable thanks to the work of the new Water Efficient Technologies (WET) Centre, developed at NIAB EMR. The newly expanded WET Centre, based at the centre for horticulture and perennial fruit crop research in Kent, has been designed to showcase the latest developments in irrigation management and moisture sensing technologies. Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director of NIAB EMR, said: “The WET Centre represents the future of soft fruit production. It brings together applied research, IT and data management and growers who want to adopt new technologies in order to improve the consistency and quality of what they produce. “Initially, the focus of the WET Centre will be on soft fruit, but the technology has the potential to improve irrigation performance for other crops in the future.” The first commercial application of the applied research undertaken at NIAB EMR is the Precision Irrigation Package (PIP) which provides fully automated irrigation to maintain moisture at precise levels to optimise water productivity, yields and berry quality. The PIP system offers real-time monitoring of moisture levels and irrigation performance. It is backed up by a 24/7 alert system, remotely maintained and operated at NIAB EMR, which can notify growers of any potential problems. Commenting on the WET Centre, Dr Mark Else of NIAB EMR, said: “Growers need the confidence that they can accurately control the irrigation of their crops and avoid the impact that over or under-watering can have on the consistency of the fruit produced, in this case, strawberries.”



Engage Agro leads the way when it comes to nutrition in fruit crops. Renowned for innovation and the development of unique sustainable technologies, Engage Agro has one of the largest portfolios of nutritional products available today. Our technologies, developed over nine years across Europe and the UK, come with a reputation for only the highest quality; we use cutting edge nutritional techniques to support and enhance the growth and health of fruit crops. Regenerative nutrition is our ethos, providing technologies which not only nutritionally support crops but enhance

The NIAB EMR research has gone from the laboratory to field trials and now into a commercial scale demonstration. The trials showed that with less run-off and improved water use efficiency, there is less wastage of key inputs. Growers can typically reduce the usage of water, fertilisers, pesticides and energy by 20%, representing a saving for strawberry growers of £2,400 per hectare per year. By eliminating unplanned water deficits, the trials have also shown that PIP can deliver higher yields compared with manual scheduling methods. Yields of Class 1 strawberries were up to 10% higher with PIP, worth around £10,600 per hectare per year for a typical grower. In more than 20 commercial trials undertaken in the past three years, yields and fruit quality with PIP have either matched or exceeded conventional irrigation in all cases. Factoring in the cost savings, and assuming a 5% improvement in yields, the WET Centre Partners estimate that the net financial benefit of using PIP for a grower producing 20 hectares of strawberries would be £6,600 per hectare per year, representing an increase in net income over three years of £396,000 for a typical strawberry grower. The WET Centre has been developed by NIAB EMR in collaboration with a number of commercial partners, including AHDB, Berry Gardens, Cocogreen, Delta T Devices, Netafim and Stoller, with further support from Meiosis, South East Water, Kent County Council and LEAF.

REGENERATIVE NUTRITION specific growth processes to optimise yield, quality and overall crop health. The move away from traditional chemistry to more sustainable nutritional products means growers require support to fully understand what optimal nutrition can deliver to their crops. Engage Agro employs three of the UK’s top nutritional agronomists who are experts in their field and are available to support growers who wish to increase

nutritional support. This year at Fruit Focus we will be showcasing our regenerative ranges of nutritional technologies, from our Fortify and Silicon range to our new Mas Power Active Range of growth stagespecific technologies and our expanding Bio-Chel chelate range of nutrients. Come and STAND talk to us and see how we can help 306 your crops.


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Unlike more brand-led categories, in fresh produce we don’t usually talk to our consumers, but at Berry Gardens we’re breaking the traditional approach and doing exactly that. Last year on blackberries we targeted a new, under-indexing, health-led consumer group with clear, positive, dynamic health messaging. The results were exciting. This year, we’ve brought Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill onboard in what we think will be a game-changing campaign for the Fresh category as no celebrity/ fitness person of her calibre has ever endorsed fresh food before (which seems a missed opportunity given how many of the great and good say fresh foods are the products consumers should be eating more of). Our partnership with Dame Jessica, the nation’s most well-known athlete/ mum, will help us build trust with consumers and communicate the amazing health benefits of our berries. Our view is that it’s our job to help retailers grow the category, recruit new audiences and to showcase new occasions for consuming our product. Our constant internal mantra is how do we work with retailers to deliver ‘more than just a punnet of berries’... we do it by adding value through the loud endorsement of influencers like Jess, directly working with retailers to support key moments and supporting the growth of ecommerce through targeted media campaigns. Why? Because mirroring at least some of the behaviour of brands STAND 300 may lead to mirroring the results.

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I wonder how many people in this edition will mention the phenomenon that is Jeremy Clarkson going farming? For those who don’t watch Amazon Prime, it is worth the subscription, in my opinion. It has the potential to do more to share the realities of farming than Countryfile has achieved in the past decade. From the outstanding people he has brought together to help him learn, to the harsh reality of the economics of trying to manage sheep, it has a great blend of humour and a typical Clarkson approach to enormous toys (cue the purchase of an unnecessarily large Lamborghini tractor) but also includes a wake-up call about the realities of lost revenue if you don’t do the job properly. In the first episode there was a great introduction to the realities of the reduction in actives and the impact on crop production. The incredulity that a whole field could be lost because of a pest for which there was no control will have been news to many watching at home. Who would have thought that Mr Clarkson would become an ally of agriculture? Interestingly, while the critics condemned him for having contempt for


REALITIES farming, I think he showed the reality of people’s presumption that growing food is easy and that farmers are greedy while also highlighting the fact that big tractors aren’t always the best. On Saturday 12 June I spoke at the British part of a Commonwealth Women in Enterprise Conference, a new experience for me and one that I hope to repeat. I was a little nervous, I have to confess. I did fear that there was the potential for a riot of feminist tropes, but instead the speakers were carefully clustered around some excellent, business-related themes. I was part of a session that focused on women in non-traditional roles and took part in a plenary session that worked around the needs of any aspiring individual in pretty much any sector. Unsurprisingly there was a stark difference between the advice from older gentlemen and that of younger women. The top ‘take homes’ from the session were:

J U LY 2 0 2 1 | W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T

• Great advice legally and financially is essential for any start • The glass ceiling is more likely to be in your head than in reality these days. • People will remember how you made them feel longer than they will remember your performance. • Negotiation skills are always needed and require professional training. But… the gender pay gap will take 25 years to close at the current rate. The UK is also 39th in the world for gender balance politically and in the business world at senior level. I think we need to publicise the role of women in food and farming; we would stand out head and shoulders above many sectors of industry and production. You only have to look at Christine Tacon’s Women in Food and Farming group to see the equality and performance of outstanding people in our sector.

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This recent spring was very noticeable for one particular aspect and, no, not the drought and cold winds. We have always had 12 April in mind when it came to some regular annual visitors. Some years it was a little before and some it was a couple of days later, but they always came. Then, about seven to 10 days later, another old friend would arrive to cheer everyone up. Following them was the group that arrived a bit later still, stayed about 10 weeks and were then gone again, never outstaying their welcome. I’m not talking about family or friends; these are even more welcome to stay for the summer! You will have guessed it, I am sure. It’s the swallows, cuckoo and, now missing from here the past year or two, the ever travelling swifts. They have all become much rarer in recent years and several theories abound. My own is quite simple. It’s the lack of available insect food, which in this area is very noticeable, and the obvious reason for much of that would appear to me to be because the cattle have left so many of our farms. No longer the dung pats strewn across the meadows to attract flies and other insects. It makes for much relief in houses but at the same time it reflects how scarce food has been for many species. How many ducklings survived their early hatch this Spring? The swallows are no longer nesting around the old dairy buildings, gathering mud from ‘washing down’ puddles around the dairy, repairing their old family nests; no more their constant twittering in the roof of the milking parlours. No longer are they swooping low around one’s feet amongst the cattle in the meadows, disturbing flies for the birds to catch, or flying high as the pressure rises to feed on the myriad insects rising with the summer air currents. The swifts will obviously have also struggled for the same reasons. Doubtless there are other reasons. Very hot conditions further south; crossing the Sahara must be hard and, perhaps equally risky, avoiding gunmen in the likes of Malta, Spain, Italy and Portugal must claim the cuckoo and many other larger birds. But what to do about it, as there appears absolutely no EU interest in deterring the slaughter as these creatures migrate north or south? What then to do to get our summer visitors back? Offer a home for a few loads of farmyard manure to be dumped in odd corners across the farm? Possibly, as long as one doesn’t get

WHAT TO DO TO GET OUR SUMMER VISITORS BACK? reported to the local council by a dog walker whose dogs have romped in it, while they forget, of course, those little ‘parcels’ their own pets have left around the farm during their visit. More annoying still is the fact that many of these dogs are very often in groups of half a dozen, clearly being walked by so called ‘professional’ dog walkers who justify their fees by allowing their ‘cares’ to run wild around farmland without a ‘do you mind’ to landowners and are very often quite aggressively rude when asked to put the animals on a lead, since none appear trained. But sadly none of this solves the problem of those almost lost ‘harbingers of spring/summer’ does it? We now have the new borehole operating. Watering lawns, filling spray tanks and running for a few hours a week topping up my old duck pond near the farm buildings. It is not being done for ‘wild swimming enthusiasts’ but to provide a haven for the numerous wildfowl, including moorhens and coots attracted by the water. The borehole supply has been tested as free of salt and other ‘nasties’ and safe to drink, but still has a bovine ‘nose’ to it, which is not surprising after 120+ years of dairy cows living above it. But at least we know it would not kill us if we had to drink it in an emergency! We filled the pond up to a reasonable level and are now monitoring levels to see what the water uptake is from the surrounding trees and the rate it simply filters into the earth beneath. The idea

then will be to just top it up through the dry spells until winter rains fill it again. The more money people purport to have the less keen they appear to pay their bills… I suppose that could be why they have so much of it! One thing I have noticed over the years is how, generally, farmers are better at paying their invoices on time, as opposed to those outside farming, who often appear to take a pride in owing money. We have noticed this increasingly in recent years as now, with no need for providing feed for the cattle, we have diversified a little, leasing out some land, buildings, or other assets. Some people who one would imagine would be good payers surprise us with their excuses and general disinterest in honouring the terms of their agreements. Do they think it is clever? I don’t know, but word soon ‘spreads’ in the countryside, meaning it will become much harder for some of them to get good staff or find craftsmen, plumbers, electricians, builders or carpenters in emergencies when those skilled folks have been forewarned that they will struggle to get their money. In the first week of May we gathered for our first games of bowls, still very dry and damned cold, but still they turned up, like the swallows used to! Since then the weather has relented, the green has greened up and allowed a tight cut every day or so, and we have a group of aging blokes dreaming of the Olympics. Dream on!

> The duck pond, now topped up and ready to welcome wildfowl back

J U LY 2 0 2 1 | W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T

Nick’s latest book It’s Straight Downhill Now is available by emailing at £13.00 and £2.00 donation to RABI. incl postage


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WITH INVESTMENT While there is no shortage of people who are happy to offer advice, there are far fewer who are prepared to back that advice up with their own cash – and fewer still who are happy to base their future remuneration on what that advice achieves. It is a rare business model – it might even be unique – but it’s the approach that’s favoured by leading farm management specialists Velcourt. The arrangement – described by managing director Nick Shorter as “a management agreement with finance” involves Velcourt providing 50% of the working capital of the farm, which not only allows the business owners to free up cash to pursue other

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interests but ties Velcourt’s commercial success inextricably to that of the business it is supporting. Decisions on investment are shared, and while Velcourt manages the farm on a day-to-day basis, it does so in the knowledge that it has a major financial stake in getting the decisions right. To make that link even stronger, Velcourt’s fee for its management expertise is closely tied to the profitability of the business. “Velcourt is unique in that 75% of its remuneration comes from profit sharing arrangements, which helps to focus the mind when making management decisions that will directly affect those profits,” explained Nick. “It’s

also reassuring for our farmer partners, who know that our interest in getting it right is just as keen as theirs.” It’s an approach that has clearly worked for the Fuller family, which signed the first Velcourt management agreement in Kent in 1977 and is, nearly 45 years later, the company’s longeststanding client. Set up by Richard Fuller, who owns Sutton Court Farm near Dover, the agreement is now overseen by the whole family, including his daughters Alice and Claire, who join him at regular meetings with the Velcourt team. That team is now headed up by Jack Woolley, who has been assistant manager for the past three >>

W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1





Photos: Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic

> Jack Woolley, incoming Farm Manager

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Photos: Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic

<< years but will be taking over as farm manager on 1 July when Andrew Cullinane retires after an impressive 40 years with Velcourt. “Andrew enjoys almost legendary status with Velcourt and has thoroughly earned his retirement,” commented Nick. “During his career he has trained 24 managers, including one who now sits on the board, and has looked after and inspired 12 placement scholars.” Sutton Court Farm covers 522 hectares of land which is used to grow traditional combinable crops including milling wheat, winter barley, spring barley, oilseed rape, beans, winter linseed and maize. Under the management agreement with Velcourt, the family still owns the holding but only provides 50% of the working capital. Decisions on investment are made jointly but the day-to-day work is carried out by Jack and his team. Velcourt receives a management fee for the service, together with a share of the profits generated by the joint approach. What is clear from visiting a number of Velcourt’s farms is that the owner’s involvement is not just encouraged but is welcomed. While managers such as Jack work in reality for Velcourt, they enjoy a solid working relationship with owners such as the Fuller family and pay close attention to their ideas and suggestions. “It’s a bit like having two bosses, but as we are all trying to achieve the same thing – a profitable farming operation – that never becomes an issue,” Jack explained. “And as far as the owners are concerned, it still feels like their farm.” While a ‘formal’ quarterly meeting is part of the arrangement, for managers like Jack the conversations tend to be at least weekly and often daily. One of the benefits of using a farm management specialist such as Velcourt is that the company can aggregate nearby farms under one umbrella, a practice which delivers huge economies of scale and the opportunity to make the fullest possible use of expensive equipment. >> In East Kent, the centre of Velcourt’s

> Operator Shane Giles spraying Bramley apples


W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1





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<< operation is Martin Lodge Farm, which is adjacent to Sutton Court Farm and is owned by the Shieds family, based in Germany. The third farm in the East Kent set up is Swanton Farm, owned by R Martin Farms. Together the three businesses cover 1,300 hectares of land, all managed by Jack and two tractor drivers, plus the usual summer support. “By bringing farms together we can provide an efficient service and perhaps bring neighbouring farms together in a way that would be more difficult if they were each running independent operations,” Nick explained. It's an approach that reflects the company’s origins. Four farmers who were studying ways in which they could improve their profitability realised that working together would make them each far more efficient, a realisation that inspired the launch of what, over the next few years, became Velcourt. “In the normal run of events, two farmers might not be comfortable sharing ideas over the hedge, but if they are both relying on us to deliver the best possible returns for their business, they are usually happy for us to co-operate and work in a more costeffective way,” Nick went on. “In some areas we work across land that is owned by as many as seven different farming businesses. It’s difficult to see seven individual farmers or farm owners agreeing on a new single strategy – you’d probably find a couple of them might not ordinarily associate with each other – but when we are the common link, and they know that we are working to improve their efficiency or profitability, it happens.” While the long-standing agreement with the


Fuller family includes the shared finance option – Velcourt’s favoured approach – the company also offers a more straightforward farm management agreement, while some businesses prefer the standard contract farming arrangement Velcourt also offers. “In theory those are our three models, but there are probably at least 20 nuances of each of them,” Nick said. “In reality we have 120 clients and 120 different arrangements, which reflects our flexibility and our desire to come up with the right solution to each farmer’s needs. “We listen carefully to what the landowner wants to achieve, carry out a thorough review of the operation and look at all the possibilities before coming up with a proposal that we think will deliver the best possible return to the business owner. In every case, our own success is directly linked to the performance of the farm, so we work hard to get it right and we build in a lot of flexibility.” Velcourt today directly manages or advises on more than 90,000 hectares of land in the UK and overseas and increasingly now offers advisory services to farmers who manage their own land. The company has a long history of carrying out independent research and development and investing in technology and data, backed up by its first-hand experience of growing crops and looking after livestock across much of the country. “We realised that a lot of farmers were keen to benefit from our knowledge and our independent research but didn’t need us to manage their land, and so we decided to offer an advisory service that has proved very popular,” said Nick. Velcourt’s

national advisory team has six arable specialists and a seventh who focuses on livestock. Along with technical advice, the team can also provide management guidance for a per hour or per hectare fee. As well as expanding its advisory operation, Velcourt is increasingly looking to the future of farming, preparing for a post-Brexit world of reduced subsidies and new opportunities to earn money by delivering ‘public good’ via the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) and other options such as carbon trading. As farming changes, the company is determined to use its well-honed research and development skills, which have been contributing to the success of UK agriculture since the late 1970s, to ensure it can stay abreast of those changes and ensure the farms it manages benefit from them. In doing so it will be relying on the strong partnerships and good relationships it has built up across the industry over the years, not just with the owners whose land it farms but with partners across the sector, including produce marketing, machinery and agro-input suppliers. Clients who opt for a farm management agreement also get access to the favourable commercial deals set up by Velcourt as a result of its buying power and strong industry partnerships. It means that while clients taking advantage of a management agreement are responsible for buying their own inputs, they pay less for them – and with Velcourt co-ordinating an aggregated £20m a year spend on fertiliser alone, the company’s buying power is second to none. >>

> Winter barley at Salisbury TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1





> Spraying T2 on winter wheat driving an Agrifac Condor Endurance Velcourt provides the expertise of its farm << manager and markets the crop centrally, in return for which it charges a management fee and again takes a share of the profit. Velcourt’s contract farming agreement is broadly in line with the industry standard, with the landowner providing the land and funding the growing of the crop and Velcourt contributing the manpower, machinery and fuel. The profits are then split in a similar way. What sets the company’s agreements apart is that the landowner gets not just a contractor but a farm manager who will run all aspects of the business, from sorting out grazing licences on pasture to completing both basic payment and Countryside Stewardship applications and claims. “The important aspect in all our arrangements is that we are committed to the success of the farm

because that’s how we earn most of our return,” Nick stressed. “There is no arrangement in which we don’t have an incentive do to the best we possibly can, whether that is financially or being rewarded for hitting environmental key performance indicators.” Nick has noticed a growth in interest from potential clients in recent months, not least because of the changes facing the industry. “There is lots of talk about new systems but a lack of hard advice on how to implement or benefit from those systems,” he said. “Velcourt has developed a reputation as a solutions provider – and we have to get it right for our own business to function, so farmers are increasingly looking to us for answers. “Whether they then take advantage of our advisory service or talk to us about entering into a management agreement, they know that our goal will be to help them make their business

as profitable as possible, both now and as new opportunities arise.” At Sutton Court Farm, incoming manager Jack Woolley sees his role as maintaining the high standards set over the past 45 years, continuing to develop yields while at the same time focusing on the environment and taking advantage of Countryside Stewardship schemes and, in the near future, ELMS. Sutton Court Farm has just entered into a five-year Countryside Stewardship scheme aimed at upping the return on marginal land and improving the environment. Jack sees it as offering a natural lead-in to ELMS. “The key driver is to maintain a profitable business while supporting the environment and improving the farm,” Jack commented, adding: “You can’t be sustainable unless you are profitable.”

> Sprayer operator Pete Godden

> Spraying protein nitrogen onto milling wheat TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

> Assistant farm manager Tom Ashby

W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1


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A DAIRY HERD… Handing over the management of a dairy herd is rarely a decision to be taken lightly – particularly when that herd is the key to a prestigious and hard-won milk contract. The cattle at Moor Farm on the Cowdray Estate are not just cows, but M&S cows, supplying milk to the quality retailer’s exacting standards – and it’s Velcourt Farm Manager David Ullyott and his team who make it happen. Velcourt began farming at Cowdray Home Farms, part of the estate which is perhaps best known as the focus of British polo and the home of the Cowdray Gold Cup, in September 2019, running the in-hand farming business under a full management agreement. The mixed farm covers more than 1,200 hectares, with 640ha used to grow winter and spring wheat,

winter and spring barley, winter linseed and spring beans. A further 150ha of land is used to grow the forage crops that are vital to the success of the dairy operation at Moor Farm, where David and his team of three make sure the milk meets Marks & Spencer’s exacting standards, both in how it tastes and how it is produced. “As an M&S Select farm we make a commitment to grazing the cattle for at least 110 days a year, although that ties in with the farm’s own philosophy anyway,” David explained. “There is a big focus on sustainability right across the estate and so we aim to produce as much milk from forage as possible. “We are undertaking a programme of reseeding the existing paddocks and extending the grazing platform by taking land out of arable use and using

it for the cattle instead. We use as little concentrate as possible, although we can use it to maintain production levels if we need to.” Marks & Spencer also has a ‘zero soya’ policy that adds another constraint to the operation, while the terms of the contract mean that Moor Farm is audited at least four times a year, including once by RSPCA Assured. The 300 cattle, mainly Holstein/Friesians together with a few legacy cross-bred cows that were part of the herd before Velcourt arrived, graze their way contentedly through the spring and summer and then switch to grass silage and forage maize when housed during the winter. Under the care and attention of David, herd manager Andrew Speed, herdsman Kieran Acott and livestock assistant Millie Joseph, a >>

> David Ullyott and Andrew Speed of the Cowdray dairy team TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

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<< sandwich placement student from Nottingham University, where she is studying agriculture with animal science, the herd is delivering a respectable 52-week rolling average yield of 9,270 litres. “That’s a good yield from forage and it reflects a lot of hard work from the team,” David commented. “We don’t bring in any additional help, which makes this a pretty tight ship; and one that relies on great teamwork.” The wider team also brings in tractor drivers Stephen Austin and Josh Ferguson on the arable side of the mixed operation. The dairy itself has cubicle spaces for 310 cows plus a loose yard. The cattle are fed a total mixed ration in the stalls as well as receiving cake in the


parlour. The highly automated computerised system installed as part of a major investment in 2014 means the cake ration can be individually varied according to yield using the auto-ID system. The Dairymaster 20/40 swingover rapid exit parlour has automatic dipping and flushing and has the welfare of the cattle as a prime concern. The rapid exit feature sees the whole of the front of the parlour lift at the same time, allowing the animals to leave together, with no queuing or bumping. As well as controlling cake ration, the auto-ID system allows selected cattle to be sidelined into a separate area after milking if they need any particular attention.

Moor Farm is a closed herd that relies for replacements on an autumn block calving that starts in July and runs through to mid-November. While the management agreement gives David full oversight of the operation across Cowdray Home Farms, he has the full support of the Velcourt team, including livestock director Robbie Taylor and nutrition and diet expert Jack White, who provide vital advice on dairy issues when required. In return, the management agreement gives the Cowdray Estate access to all of Velcourt’s central purchasing agreements, a considerable benefit on an estate that covers nearly 6,700 hectares in total.


> Nick Shorter, Managing Director

> Nigel Gibb, Fruit Manager

> James Sheldrick, Farm Manager


RANKS AT VELCOURT Managing director Nick Shorter is a good example of Velcourt’s impressive training and succession policy. While some other companies ‘parachute in’ the man or woman they want to lead the team, a move that can be disconcerting for staff who wonder how much the new MD knows about life at the sharp end, Velcourt relies on developing in-house expertise and making the most of years of experience. In Nick’s case, he joined Velcourt in the year 2000 as a management trainee before taking on his first role in Suffolk as a trainee manager. After a spell working for Velcourt in Hungary he returned to take on a farm manager’s role back in East Anglia in 2005 before being made regional manager for the South East in 2009. Armed with plenty of sharp end experience, Nick was made farms director for the south and south west in 2014 before moving to take on his current role

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as group managing director this year. And he’s not the only internal candidate to have carved a successful route through the Velcourt ranks. Four of the six current directors all worked their way through the Velcourt management training scheme. Andrew Cullinane, who is retiring on 1 July after 40 years with the company, has personally trained 24 managers, including Jack Woolley, who is replacing him at Martin Lodge Farm to head up Velcourt’s East Kent operation. Across the country – with a focus on the South East, East Anglia, the Midlands, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Scotland – Velcourt now employs 56 managers, including 11 dairy and livestock specialists. Each one receives BASIS and FACTS (Fertiliser Adviser Certification Training Scheme) training, highlighting the company’s commitment to a motivated, well-trained and professional workforce.

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TWO LETTERS MARK IMPORTANT SHIFT IN EMPHASIS As Velcourt’s head of crop technology, Nick Anderson’s focus has undergone a subtle but important shift in recent times. “My job used to prioritise crop protection, but now this is just a small part of an overall focus on crop production,” he commented. Those two letters mark a fundamental change in the farm management company’s approach to agriculture, a move that recognises an industrywide shift towards more sustainable farming practices, greater concern for the soil and a truly integrated approach. “Improving our management of the soil is a cornerstone,” Nick explained. “This means protecting soils from degradation, ensuring cultivations are proportionate and working to increase the levels of organic matter in the soil. “While this may carry further benefits of increased carbon sequestration, the primary focus

is ensuring long term stewardship of our core asset. We are making changes to our approach carefully and trying to avoid being prescriptive about it as we know all our farms are different and are host to a huge range of different soil types,” Nick pointed out. “This is a period of transition, and we are determined to manage that transition effectively. We have shown that we can maintain output while reducing the intensity of cultivations where appropriate, but we are moving forward steadily. We are managing other people’s land, so we make sure we have robust evidence to back up any policy changes.” Nick is clear that the greatest opportunities for improvement in production do not lie in crop protection, something that is reflected in Velcourt’s research and development activity. “Farmers who are looking for solutions out of a can are living in the past,” he stressed. “Optimising

the amount of chemicals we use is good for the bottom line and for the environmental footprint of our activity, but optimising every element of crop production is how gains are made.” The R&D team works closely with farm managers such as Charlie Batten at Norman Court Farms, a relationship that not only benefits Velcourt’s farms but means that ideas and new approaches are tested out in the ‘real world’. Velcourt farm managers are all BASIS and FACTS trained and make their own agronomy decisions, but having the backup of around half a century of in-house research and development is a valuable bonus. The team also supports the agronomists who advise Velcourt’s consultancy clients. The company not only crops 50,000 hectares of land in hand but also provides a rapidly growing, independent advisory service to farmers who are growing crops on a further 45,000 hectares. >>

> Head of Crop Technology, Nick Anderson checks the root architecture TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1




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<< Those consultancy clients can be reassured by the fact that the advice they receive is the same that Velcourt’s own farm managers are acting on; advice that makes a real difference to the company’s profitability. While Velcourt is joining the move to more ‘regenerative’ farming practices, Nick is not convinced that it is far from what the company has always practised. “Regenerative farming is just good integrated management, and we have been following that kind of good practice for the past 50-plus years,” he commented. That longevity is vital in Nick’s view, as it gives Velcourt a clear advantage when making decisions. “The breadth of experience in the company is almost unique,” he commented. “Whatever one of our farmer managers is thinking about doing, you can guarantee someone in the company will have relevant experience that they are able to share.” While the focus may have shifted from crop protection, Nick knows that chemicals still have a place in modern farming. “Crop protection products are a good thing, but we are now more conscious of the need to use them proportionately and in an integrated manner,” he said. “They are the last piece of the jigsaw, not the first.”

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In 1967, four farmers on a course run by the Worshipful Company of Farmers were set a task to review their separate businesses. It was the kind of course that many business people will have sat through over the years, but it had a remarkable impact. While looking closely at their own operations and comparing notes over ways in which they could be improved, the four men realised that if they worked together as a kind of cooperative they could reduce their costs, bring in better machinery, pool their expertise and create better businesses. It was the kind of ‘lightbulb moment’ that doesn’t happen every day and it was the inspiration behind Velcourt, now one of the leading farm management companies in Europe. West Country farmer Robin Malim and his three associates went beyond simple cooperation with each other and steadily developed the business by taking on the management of additional pieces of land. “Up until that point farms had essentially been managed by the owner or the tenant of

the land,” explained managing director Nick Shorter. “What the four founders of Velcourt did for the first time was separate the ownership of the land from the operation of farming it.” The company grew steadily throughout the seventies as institutional investors acquired agricultural land but did not have the ability, the desire or the skills needed to farm it. Velcourt was able to provide that management – and was on hand again in the eighties as the investors sold off their holdings, finding buyers for the land and providing management services to the new owners. A decade later the company set up its ambitious and highly successful management training scheme, began carrying out extensive trials work and took on its first dairy enterprise as its portfolio grew to 20,000 hectares of managed land. Velcourt now directly manages or advises on more than 90,000 hectares in the UK after adding a thriving advisory service to its product range, allowing wider access to the expertise and the research and trials data it has accumulated and developed over the years.

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> Kevin Castle spraying Bramleys

AN UNBEATABLE INCENTIVE TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS While much has changed at Hadlow Place Farm over the past 37 years, the quality of the fruit has continued to benefit from one particular constant. Nigel Gibb, now fruit manager for Velcourt’s Hadlow Estate operation, has been an integral part of the farm’s growth since 1984, both before and since the company won the contract to farm the land. In reality, Nigel was familiar with the farm long

before 1984, having been born and raised in one of the cottages at Hadlow Place. “I spent a lot of my childhood around the farm, but my real involvement began in 1984 when I became a tractor driver on the site,” he recalled. At that stage he reported to the farm owners, Chloe and the late James Teacher, who were farming the orchards in hand and did so until 1998, when they advertised for a contract farming arrangement that would allow the farm to benefit from increased

purchasing power and give them the freedom to pursue other interests and Velcourt arrived on the scene. Today, while he is formally employed by Velcourt, Nigel still works closely with the family in the shape of Chloe, her son Harry and his wife Kate. Those orchards are home to 80 hectares of top fruit, mainly Gala but including 10ha of pears and 25ha of Bramleys. Velcourt’s arrangement is a traditional contract farming set-up under >>

> Spraying Bramley apples




> George removes canker-diseased branches from the Bramley trees

J U LY 2 0 2 1 | W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T


VELCOURT << which the Teacher family provides the trees, inputs and land and Velcourt contributes the men, machinery and expertise. With profits shared, Velcourt has an unbeatable incentive to make the right decisions. The inputs are cheaper than they might otherwise have been as the Hadlow Estate, like all Velcourt’s other contract managed farms, has access to the impressive deals that result from working alongside a company that co-ordinates a spend of £20 million a year on fertiliser alone. As far as expertise is concerned, Nigel’s vast experience with the Hadlow Estate orchards is now supported by the much broader resource base offered by Velcourt and its decades of independent research and development, together with the relationships built up with external partners. As managing director Nick Shorter pointed out: “No-one would expect to teach Nigel much about fruit after all these years, but what Velcourt has done is support his development and invested in the kit he needs to do the job as well as possible.” Nigel’s close contact with the family extends well beyond the contractual quarterly meetings – of which there are, strangely, three a year. “I usually see them at least daily,” he said. “The relationship is as close it needs to be, depending on what is happening.” Farming operations also benefit from the economies of scale generated by the fact that Velcourt also manages the arable operation on the adjacent Fairlawne Estate. The 1,300ha of arable land at Fairlawne and Hadlow is managed by farm manager James Sheldrick, who works closely with Nigel and is currently looking carefully at future options for the land with single payments being phased out and ELMS on the horizon. The Velcourt team is made up of two full-time employees on the arable side and three who work in the orchards, together with one person who is responsible for maintenance and looks after the campsite which houses the 70 or so pickers, mainly from Lithuania and Romania, who live on site from September to mid-October. Some of the team return in December to carry out pruning through to March/April, and at the time of South East Farmer’s visit, four settled status workers were busy cutting out canker from some of the trees. “Working across the Fairlawne and Hadlow estates has lots of synergy and allows both operations to benefit from significant economies of scale,” explained James. “There are management synergies and a useful skills crossover that works well for both businesses and improves the bottom line for the owners and, of course, for Velcourt.” Nigel and his team also do maintenance work for the buildings and the infrastructure on the Hadlow estate, responding to requests from Kate for work to reinstate or improve roadways and carry out >>

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<< other repairs or groundworks projects. While helping the client it also helps spread the cost of the machinery on the site. By the time Velcourt arrived in 1998, Nigel had already moved from tractor driver to assistant manager, but the company’s highly developed training scheme allowed him to develop his skills. Like all Velcourt management trainees, he benefited from FACTS and BASIS training to give him a broader skill set and quickly moved through the ranks from farm foreman to assistant manager and then fruit manager, a post he has held since 2010. While he has always enjoyed growing fruit at Hadlow, he welcomes the new opportunities he has enjoyed since Velcourt took on the contract. “It’s a different approach but it has been a very positive experience. Velcourt’s approach to its people and to research and development is second to none and I am delighted to have benefited from that support as well as from modern equipment and well-trained people,” he said. “It has been good for the farm owners, too.” He sees his role now as all about quality. “I am simply trying to achieve the best possible crop,” he commented. “We are growing for the supermarkets, so we need good quality, but we are also growing to a price, so we need to be efficient.” The company uses Hutchinsons for fruit agronomy advice and agrochemicals and brings in 34 bee hives from a local bee keeper – via the National Pollination Secretary – each spring. In return, the trees deliver more than 20 million apples and pears each year. The tonnage produced by the orchards has increased over the years but has now settled back to 55 tonnes per hectare in order to make sure the quality meets supermarket standards. “We pushed it from 50 tph up to 70, but the tree is more comfortable at 55 tph so that’s where we keep it now, to make sure the fruit is as good as it can be,” Nigel explained.


Up until 2001 Hadlow Place Farm had its own packhouse, but now it grows and stores the fruit and sends it to Adrian Scripps Ltd at Five Oak Green for packing and supplying to the likes of Tesco and Lidl. The farm has low oxygen storage for 2,000 bins and a further 4,000 bins worth of controlled atmosphere storage. It also rents out those facilities to other growers on occasion and is currently storing raspberry canes for another grower. In another example of Velcourt’s entrepreneurial approach, Nigel makes use of the farm’s infrastructure to store, handle and distribute imported fruit, generating additional out-of-season income for the farm and keeping the Velcourt operations team busy throughout the year. The family’s support is critical and is willingly provided. As Nick Shorter pointed out: “While this is technically a contract farming arrangement, it works in practice more like a management agreement. Fruit is a long-term investment and so both parties are very reliant on the commitment of the other. We certainly value that commitment from Chloe, Harry and Kate.” Looking to the future, James is planning to put Fairlawne into a mid-tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme next year and then move Hadlow Place onto a similar scheme the following year. In the longer term the aim is to benefit from the opportunities on offer through ELMS. “Farming is bound to change and at Velcourt we are making sure we are ready for those changes,” he said. “Changing weather patterns and poor break crops mean we need to look for a much smarter way of doing things, and at Velcourt we have a ‘leave no stone unturned’ mentality. “There is currently a huge opportunity to take advantage of change, which is coming whether we like it or not. In my view the withdrawal of Basic Payments is not a death knell for small farmers, but it is certainly a wake-up call for average ones. Reform your business well and efficiently and there will be many opportunities for everyone.”

> Kevin Castle

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> Winter barley

With 120 different clients across the country, Velcourt prides itself on the fact that it has 120 different agreements in place, offering flexibility and customer focus alongside an unwavering commitment to delivering the best farming practices. Those contracts are so varied that it’s not unusual for them to prioritise something other than getting the maximum return from the land on behalf of the landowners. “Some farmers want us to deliver the best possible bottom line, others want consistently good results but favour a low-risk approach and others are more concerned about enhancing the environment,” explained Charlie Batten, recently appointed regional farms manager for Velcourt’s operation across the South East of the country. Charlie has also retained day-to-day responsibility for Norman Court Contracting near Salisbury, a multi-farm Velcourt contract farming operation that he has managed for the past eight years and which highlights the company’s flexible, client-focused approach. The 2,700 hectares of cropped land that make up the Norman Court unit bring together nine landowners and 13 different farms, and no fewer than eight of those farms are home to commercial shoots that are vitally important to the owners. “That means we can’t do anything on some farms after dusk, as partridges roost on the ground and will simply sit there and wait for the tractor to hit them,” Charlie explained. “It’s not the most efficient way of farming, but the shoots are very important, so we work within those constraints. We are in a service industry and we deliver what our

landowners require.” For the same reason, some fields are only ever planted with spring barley and are left untouched from the end of harvest through to February. The stubble is left slightly longer than normal in order to allow the game birds to thrive. “The shoots are profitable and so we tailor our agreement to make sure we protect that interest and deliver exactly what the landowner wants,” said Charlie. “We won’t ever compromise on our standards, but we will alter our approach to achieve what the owner wants to achieve.” The Norman Court operation extends 62 miles from top to bottom. It began when a Swedish landowner asked Velcourt to look after his farms at Hippenscombe – just south of Hungerford – in the north and Sowley in the south, just east of Lymington, together with Norman Court itself, which sits between them. That original agreement has now lasted more than 20 years, with the owner generally taking a ‘hands-off’ approach and trusting Velcourt to make the day-to-day decisions, particularly since the coronavirus crisis has made visiting the farms far more difficult. Other landowners prefer more regular communication with Charlie and his team, which comprises trainee farm manager Alex Neeson, farm foreman Chris Oxford and full time tractor drivers Simon Bailey, Chris Collins and Damien Anderson. The team currently uses two Case Quadtracs, one delivering 580bhp and another with an output of 500bhp, but as Velcourt reduces to less intensive farming and shallower cultivations, the business will be replacing the two machines with one >>

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> Operator Clive Parker spraying protein nitrogen onto milling wheat. Driving a Case Puma 185


<< Quadtrac 580, plus a 12m Horsch Sprinter drill equipped with Dutch openers. The three original farms that form the north-south ‘spine’ of the Norman Court operation have since been joined by a further 10 to give the operation a significant presence – and allow it to benefit from economies of scale – as other farmers have taken advantage of Velcourt’s skill and experience. In inviting the company to contract farm their land, they know that the profit sharing arrangement included in any Velcourt agreement means the team is fully committed to getting it right. Special requirements – like not farming after dusk – are built in to the arrangement and form part of the agreement. The newest member of the Norman Court family of farms is George Knapman, who asked Velcourt to contract manage his land at Alderstone Farm in July 2020 and saw the team start work just 10 days later. Charlie explained: “George was looking for a new contract farming agreement and made a call to the regional office asking Velcourt to put together a proposal for him. I met him two days later and we discussed what he wanted to achieve and how the company could help him achieve his goals. “It took a further three days to get the proposal finalised and the financial details agreed, and on

day nine we signed on the dotted line. The very next day we were on his fields to begin cultivations ahead of planting oilseed rape on the land.” Charlie said that Mr Knapman approached Velcourt because he “recognised our ability to manage the whole farming process and our professionalism and integrity”, pointing out that he already had a good idea of the way the company worked. “He has been looking over the hedge for many years, in reality as well as figuratively,” he pointed out. All Velcourt clients get access to the company’s bulk buying benefits, and its unique growing programmes, which can lead to impressive savings. “George has halved his chemical spend since he joined us in July last year,” Charlie pointed out. The 140ha at Alderstone Farm benefit from the same level of service as larger holdings, and Velcourt’s size means it can bring in additional capacity when needed. “We are in regular contact with other Velcourt farms across the country, so we can easily borrow specialist equipment, share ideas or pool resources in other ways,” Charlie said. “And that applies to all our farms, large or small.” While still running operations at Norman Court, Charlie’s new role as regional farms manager means

he will be the primary contact for landowners in the South looking to follow George Knapman’s example and talk to Velcourt about how the company can help them achieve their objectives. “That could be about increasing profitability, changing farming systems, looking for agronomic or strategic farm management advice or issues with succession and the future management of the farm,” he said. Cropping across the Norman Court unit is relatively simple and focuses on wheat, which is looking well this season and currently accounts for more than 700ha. The operation is also home to oilseed rape, winter barley, spring barley, spring oats, winter oats, linseed and rye. Summarising the commercial benefits of joining forces with Velcourt, Charlie commented: “If you ask a land agent to carry out a business review, once he has completed it he will leave the landowner to implement his recommendations. “If Velcourt carries out the review, there will always be the option of having Velcourt put boots on the ground to implement the recommendations. This offering is unique in our industry and something of which we are very proud. If we are asked to implement the review recommendations, we are accountable for achieving the targets; the buck stops with us.”


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Passionate Passionatepeople people wanted. wanted. We’re looking for agriculture ready to to make makeaadifference. difference. We’re looking for agriculture pros pros ready Find Findout outmore moreand and apply: apply: There’s never been a more appropriate time to consider an agricultural teaching career at There’s never been a more appropriate time to consider an agricultural teaching career at Plumpton College. With the significance of change in the industry and ambitious plans for continued Plumpton College. With the significance of change in the industry and ambitious plans for continued development at the college, we’re excited about the future. development at the college, we’re excited about the future. The award-winning college farm provides one of the largest and most diverse educational estates The award-winning college farm provides one of the largest and most diverse educational estates in in the country, delivering the the very veryhighest highest the country,and andisishome hometotoaarange rangeofofcommercial commercial mixed mixed enterprises, enterprises, delivering standards in education and training. It continues to make great strides in its performance, productivity standards in education and training. It continues to make great strides in its performance, productivity and environmental conservation grazing grazing and environmentalimpact impactincluding includingour ourrecent recentLEAF LEAFaccreditation accreditation and and conservation partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority at Seven Sisters. partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority at Seven Sisters. If this wasn’t enough investment If this wasn’t enoughtototempt temptyou, you,the thecollege collegeisisembarking embarking on on aa multi-million-pound multi-million-pound investment toto further enhance facilities at the farm to ensure students are exposed to the latest cutting edge further enhance facilities at the farm to ensure students are exposed to the latest cutting edge technologies, including robotics in the dairy and a brand new state-of-the-art high welfare and technologies, including robotics in the dairy and a brand new state-of-the-art high welfare and RSPCA assured destination garden gardenin inBrighton Brighton RSPCA assuredpig pigunit. unit.Coupled Coupledwith withthis, this,the thecollege’s college’s newly newly opened opened destination provides the perfect supply chain chainrelating relatingto to provides the perfectopportunity opportunitytotoeducate educatestudents students in in every every aspect aspect of the supply British produce. British produce. “Becoming lectureratatPlumpton Plumpton “Becoming a alecturer offered methe thechance chancetotogive give offered me something back,advise adviseyoung youngentrants entrants something back, coming into theindustry industryand andallowed allowed coming into the pass mypassion passionfor forfarming farming meme toto pass ononmy which, I hope, has made a real impact which, I hope, has made a real impact on the students I teach. We will all on the students I teach. We will all dependentonontheir theirdevelopment development bebe dependent as young people and farmers, and as young people and farmers, and to play a part in their journey to play a part in their journey isis a unique opportunity for anyone a unique opportunity for anyone with agricultural experience looking with agricultural experience looking to enhance the future of the next to enhance the future of the next custodians of the countryside.” custodians of the countryside.” Ben, Trainee Teacher. Ben, Trainee Teacher.

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NEW MANAGERS MANAGERSREQUIRED REQUIRED Dueto tothe the continued continued growth in agriculture (HNC/D Due agriculture student studentnumbers numbersand andwith withnew newhigher higherlevel level (HNC/D equivalent) courses in Agriculture and Land Management due to be commencing in September equivalent) courses and Land Management due to be commencing in September 2022,we weare are looking looking to to recruit recruit individuals study and 2022, individuals to tohelp helpmanage manageour ourexisting existingprogrammes programmesofof study and informthe the exciting exciting development development of arable, inform of new new ones. ones.Whether Whetheryour yourarea areaofofexpertise expertiseisislivestock, livestock, arable, agri-business or or land land management, management, we’d agri-business we’d like liketo tohear hearfrom fromyou. you. Withour ournew new suite suite of of agriculture agriculture apprenticeship worker, With apprenticeshipprogrammes programmes(including (includinggeneral generalfarm farm worker, crop technician and livestock technician), we are also looking for new staff to join our account crop technician and livestock technician), we are also looking for new staff to join our account management team, team, working working with needs. management with employers employers across acrossthe theSouth SouthEast Easttotosupport supporttheir theirtraining training needs. If you are interested in a very much industry facing role, please do get in touch. If you are interested in a very much industry facing role, please do get in touch. Due to the continued growth in our butchery apprenticeship programmes and with the Due to the continued growth in our butchery apprenticeship programmes and with the college’s new specialist on site butchery training facility opening in September 2021, we are also college’s new specialist on site butchery training facility opening in September 2021, we are also looking to recruit individuals to manage and teach on our butchery courses, with a range of full looking to recruit individuals to manage and teach on our butchery courses, with a range of full and part time opportunities available. and part time opportunities available.

VELCOURT Farm Management & Advisory Services “We are farmers who work for farmers for a profitable and sustainable future”

To start a conversation call any of these contacts: FARM MANAGEMENT Nick Shorter 07703 203550 Charlie Batten 07779 681359 James Sheldrick 07771 507310 Nigel Gibb 07771 507294 Jack Woolley 07917 218446 David Ullyott 07584 170444 AGRONOMY Nick Anderson 07342 038182 Chris Spain 07494 498558

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BEE-LIEVE IN FARMERS Reaching out to landowners for new hive space proved an eye-opening experience for Kent bee farmer Charlie Collins. Charlie, who runs Collins and Sons Bee Farming Ltd, was amazed not just at the response from farmers and others who came forward to offer him sites but at the amount of unsung conservation work going on in the sector. “As I talked to farmers and landowners about my bees and their contribution to the environment, I learned about the amazing work that so many of them are doing for wildlife and conservation, very often voluntarily and outside the grant system,” he said. “It struck me that while the general public, particularly on social media, likes to blame farmers for all kinds of ‘crimes’, from cutting hedges to spraying their crops, it is those farmers that are quietly getting on with a huge range of environmentally friendly activities and helping to protect nature and the countryside.” Charlie was looking for new sites, each capable of supporting between eight and 10 hives, to allow his business to expand and asked for landowners and farmers to come forward via Southern Farmers’ members’ newsletter. “I received an incredible response which allowed me to place an additional 250 hives out in the Kent and East Sussex countryside,” said Charlie, whose

business – set up by his father – is based at Stone-in-Oxney near Tenterden. “I am really grateful to Brigitte [Fifield] at Southern Farmers for allowing me to contact her members,” he added. “As everyone knows, bees are vital pollinators and now, more than ever, we need to be protecting them and helping them do their job.” As well as helping Charlie take his hive numbers from 350 to 600, the response highlighted the “amazing amount of work” being done across the area to protect and enhance the land and the environment. “It occurred to me that while farmers so often get the blame in the media for environmental problems, they are in reality at the forefront of so much great work. We really need to be supporting our farmers and doing more to tell the world just how much they are doing to protect nature and support wildlife.” With farmers use of chemical inputs and seed dressings often blamed for a decline in bee numbers in the wild, Charlie pointed out: “I have never lost a hive through spraying or poisoning. People need to stop blaming farmers and start to recognise the amazing work they are doing, much of it unpaid and simply because they love the countryside. “They really are getting a raw deal and we need to speak out on their behalf.”

HELPING SET THE AGENDA AND INFLUENCE FARMING FOR THE BETTER Today’s livestock farmers have to deal with both best practice in terms of the environmental agenda and make a realistic return from their business. Having the capacity to trial a vast array of maize varieties – from those yet to leave the starting blocks to those already well on their way – is crucial if farmers are to make informed decisions and make the right selections. Bright Maize specialises in maize for forage and anaerobic digestion plants. As well as the company’s showcase trial site at its Wiltshire headquarters, Bright Maize has trial sites located throughout the UK, so it knows which varieties perform best in different terranes, climates and locations. A ‘one size fits all’ is not a credible approach for modern agriculture: varieties must match the objectives and conditions of individual customers. Not content with simply reacting to events, Bright Maize wants to help set the agenda and influence farming for the better, while supporting our farmers with new technology, expert advice, good value and the highest standard of service. Because we work closely with seed breeding partners to ensure reliable

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supply, farmers can be sure of varieties marked for consistently high performance. And through innovations such as the Agrotempo program, which collects data to recommend best husbandry during the growing season, customers have access to cutting-edge technology. The in-one app permits growers to ‘monitor, anticipate and optimise’ to get the most from their maize crop. Grass varieties and inoculant are also a growing part of Bright Maize: both positively contribute to the livestock farmers most valuable commodity – home grown feed. Whether for grazing, foraging or both, grass mixtures that satisfy the aims of the farming operation can make a decisive difference to profitability. Similarly, a carefully crafted inoculant – balanced for fermentation and stability in the clamp – helps improve feed value and output. The most important investment is in people. Staff training has always featured as a top priority, and Bright Maize sets great stall in presenting a team that is technically competent and informed; and we are proud to supply and service our customers in the Velcourt Group.

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Since my last article we have had near perfect growing weather; plenty of rain interspersed with sunshine and temperatures in the low to mid-twenties. Crops in the south and west look as good as they ever could at this time of year. New crop wheat futures have now traded about £20 off the top reached in April. So, while the UK is ok there remains a few weather issues in the rest of the world, which may yet impact on our prices in a positive way. The last USDA report is forecasting a third consecutive year of record world wheat and maize production. In particular, they are predicting huge increases in stocks year on year from the end of June 2021 to the end of June 2022, so definitely ‘jam tomorrow’. But for this year they still need the world maize crop to produce a ‘normal’ crop. Narrowing that down, it means they cannot afford any issues with the North American maize crop. More importantly they are already acknowledging problems with the Safrinha maize crop in Brazil. It began at 109 million tonnes, but most believe it has lost ten million tonnes already. Since the May report, it’s thought to have lost another five to ten million tonnes. The USDA is due to pronounce on 10 June. Do I think they will reduce the Brazil maize crop by another 10 million tonnes? No, I don’t. They will “kick the can down the road” until next month as they don’t want to spoil the illusion of there being record crops and plenty of surplus to keep prices in check. Maize apart, there are concerns

about spring wheat planted in the USA and other countries, too. So these are tangible weather issues just now which have likely caused irreparable damage to crops. But if you were looking for more bullish factors, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Algeria have all ‘suffered’ crop damage, making them bigger importers of wheat. By the way, you can usually tell when the ‘bullish’ stories are running out of steam as they start talking about plagues of locusts. Well, I have something better than that; a real plague of mice in Australia eating everything. Better yet a mysterious dry, high temperature wind generated in Russia (called the ‘Sukhovey’) which has been conjured up to maybe affect their crops. I think there is too much emphasis put on seeking out issues with crop sizes because we should really be looking at demand instead. China, probably forever, has changed the dynamic of world demand. Just think about the fact it was importing and using two million tonnes of soya per week during a lot of last winter. Its maize purchases were probably tenfold above normal. It switched its barley-buying programme from Australia to France, creating a huge deep water Panamax boat trade in our back yard at Rouen. It has already bought five million tonnes of new crop barley from France, Canada and Argentina. I cannot see it ELVED PHILLIPS will stop being the ‘big open mouth’ of the world anytime Openfield soon. So if you add extra demand from these other Eastern and


African countries that have to import anyway to the rebound for food and drink as lockdowns lift around the world, increased demand will be a bigger factor than supply or crop size. We will see this in the UK. Even with a more normal wheat harvest of, say, 14.5 million tonnes, and even though the new ethanol inclusion rate does not start until September, already one of the production plants has switched from maize to wheat starting in July. Maize is just too expensive compared to wheat. If it carries on with that and, as planned, the other starts production in January, potentially they could repeat what happened in 2017 and use 1.4 million tonnes. In addition to our normal wheat surplus disappearing almost by osmosis we could be balanced at best, or in deficit without imports, in the New Year. Barley is very interesting; because of the high price of maize it has more price protection than 12 months ago, hence the £150 and above new crop values. That said, we are likely to have a surplus of 1.5 million tonnes, so it will need to be exported both as feed and malting as the high cost of haulage from the south makes it uneconomic to sell malting barley to domestic maltings. Just now our new crop wheat is not priced to be competitive for export because it does not need to be, for the many reasons stated, but barley will have to be. So timing is very important for barley. Any barley needing harvest movement should be wrapped up now at these good values. Likewise pre-Christmas, but if you miss that then wait until post-Christmas when wheat will be firm again.


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News of the financial collapse of grain merchant Alexander Inglis & Son, based near Tranent in East Lothian, a leading supplier of grain to Scotland’s whisky and distilling industries, seems like a distant problem for an arable farmer in the South East of England. But are there lessons we can all learn from this distressing disaster? The merchant was put into administration in May and emotions are running high among farmers who fear that they will never be paid fully for grain sold through the company or stored in its silos. There were few warning signs to alert farmers of the firm’s imminent collapse. Only last December, the business recorded a profit of £1.77 million on a turnover of £99 million. Over the past decade, the merchant has purchased an additional 100,000 tonnes of storage, complete with a grain-drying complex. It boasted facilities in the Lothians, Perthshire and Northumberland. To top it all, it was owned by Jim Aitken, captain of Scotland’s Grand Slamwinning rugby team of 1984, and his family. But it turns out that the directors of the firm had been resigning since December. Now administrators have been appointed and they have reported that the stores hold “significantly less grain than expected”, which means there is not likely to be enough grain to meet the claims of creditors. It also appears that what consignments of grain there are in the firm’s stores have not been stored separately. This makes it nigh on impossible for arable farmer clients to identify their grain which, in turn, has led the administrators to declare that they “will sell the stock of grain that is in the stores and place the funds on account”. As usual in such cases, it seems that farmers will be well down the queue of creditors. For arable farmers, grain merchant insolvency is a cruel blow. We learn to live with what nature throws at us: adverse weather, disease and pests. We accept that we also have to grapple with the vagaries of subsidy systems, trade policy and arable commodity price volatility. But we all like to think that once we have ‘harvest home’, our crops are safe. To find out that grain was anything but safe in Alexander Inglis & Son’s stores is the stuff of an arable farmer’s worst nightmare. The potential for grain merchant payment default has been the main reason why I have always been a member of a farming cooperative that offers payment insurance on most of the value of any grain contract. I have occasionally sold grain direct to a merchant with payment not insured, but the premium has had to be large and the tonnage small. The freedom to be able to sell considerable tonnages (say, 1,000 tonnes of milling wheat on a single contract for delivery in one calendar month) and not have to worry about whether I am going to be paid, is worth every penny of the insurance premiums involved. I’m not a particularly ‘cooperative’ minded farmer, but group grain sale insurance has always persuaded me to pay the membership subscriptions without a second thought.



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AGRONOMY The key to success is drilling crops early into good conditions to establish strong, healthy, deep-rooted plants with greater resilience. Before deciding to grow any crop, oilseed rape being no exception, it is important to identify the yield required to break even and then ask whether or not this can be practicably achieved. Consider alternative break crops and other options, such as the two-year legume mix within the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which, at a payment of £522/ha, effectively sets a ‘floor’ for the potential returns possible and means an OSR yield of at least 2.3 t/ha is needed to make this a better option financially.



• Oilseed rape should ideally be grown no closer than one year in five or six to avoid building pressure from pests like cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) and diseases such as clubroot. • A wider rotation gives more time to plan the best entry for early OSR establishment, which is often a preceding winter barley crop. Early-harvested wheat, or in bad black-grass situations where a double-break is needed, peas, can also be suitable entries, both for timeliness of drilling and for leaving soils in better condition after harvest than they may be following winter wheat.


• Underlying soil structure issues, such as compaction, must be rectified in preceding seasons, as current pressures on establishment mean it is not effective to combine OSR sowing with subsoiling. • Aim for a friable surface that OSR can be drilled straight into, as preserving seedbed moisture is critical to establishing rape successfully at what is usually a dry time of year.


• Given rape’s small seed size and the need for fast, even establishment to counter pest threats, it is essential to maximise seed-to-soil contact


With oilseed rape prices significantly higher than this time last year, there could be more of the crop going into the ground this autumn. But before making a final decision, regional director James Short urges growers to think carefully about how they will get crops to perform well amidst the many establishment challenges. and achieve consistently accurate sowing depth, whether using a tine or disc-based drill. • Avoid sowing any deeper than 5cm, otherwise seed is unlikely to germinate. Also, resist the temptation to push seed rates too high as this is likely to result in more plants with thinner stems prone to CSFB larval damage. It also exacerbates intra-crop competition for water and nutrients. • Early sowing at lower seed rates generally produces bigger plants able to develop stronger stems, well-branched canopies and more extensive root systems. Typically, 25-30 established plants/m2 is optimum for yield, but 40-50/m2 may give leeway for some establishment losses.


• Placement fertiliser at drilling can benefit OSR establishment as nutrients are more easily available to young plants with limited scavenging ability. This is particularly true for phosphate, which is vital for root development but has poor soil mobility so must be close to the seed. Seedbed nitrogen is also beneficial for early growth. Typically around 30 kg/ha of each

should be sufficient. • Early spring nitrogen may also be beneficial to “feed” spring vigour.


• Leaving volunteer OSR to grow in other fields after harvest can provide a useful ‘trap crop’ to divert CSFB away from newly-sown crops. However, destruction must be timed carefully to reduce the risk of adults migrating into the new crop. • Be aware that volunteer OSR can dry soils significantly, potentially creating issues for a following winter wheat, so consider raking out a proportion of OSR volunteers and drill other catch crop species into it. The variation in root structures of plants like buckwheat, berseem clover or vetch improves moisture management.


• The yield impact of any damage from slugs and pigeons is likely to be exacerbated where crops are already struggling to overcome CSFB. Monitor closely and apply appropriate controls where required.


Regional director, Hutchinsons T: 07721 567083 E: Canterbury: 01227 830064

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RESISTANCE ACTION The Weed Resistance Action Group, WRAG, has warned that once resistance has developed, it does not go away. It urges growers and agronomists to spot resistance early, a move reported to be much cheaper to stop resistance developing, compared to subsequent measures to resolve issues.

“Herbicide resistance could be indicated by a gradual decline in overall efficacy of control, or where patches or weeds remain uncontrolled, despite receiving applications,” she explained. If one grass weed species has been controlled, but not another, that would indicate that the application has been effective, but resistance is more likely an issue.

WRAG highlights in a 10-point Action Plan that the development of herbicide resistance is within growers’ control and identifies resistance tests as a valuable management tool.

“Where resistance is suspected it’s a really good idea to get ryegrass seed tested, and now is the time to be thinking about that,” she urged. It also helps to focus attention on the all-important autumn pre-emergence herbicide programmes for ryegrass. Ryegrass seed may be mature for collection from early July, but more typically in mid to late July. Seeds should be sampled when they are brown and fall off the panicle when gently brushed with the hand; if they need to be forcibly rubbed off the plant, it’s too early.

Georgina highlighted that mapping areas of ryegrass during the growing season, with the Syngenta Protector scouting app, for example, makes it quicker and more accurate to return to the precise spot for sampling. “The development of resistance isn’t necessarily ubiquitous across the farm, so where there is an issue developing in the corner of one field, for example, there may not be an issue in the field next door,” she advised. “Mapping is one way to understand this detail, to help develop a targeted strategy for the future.” Resistance testing requires around a mug of seed (approx. 250-300 ml), which should be allowed to dry fully before being bagged to send for testing. Samples submitted to testing labs by the end of July, would normally have results back by the end of September, to aid agronomy decision making.

“All growers should increasingly be looking at good practice of integrating cultural controls within their herbicide strategy, to minimise the risk of resistance developing,” advised Georgina. “Where an issue has been identified to contact chemistry, it further focuses the attention on cultural controls and making best use of DEFY®-based mixes as a pre-emergence treatment.”

Download new Syngenta Spray Assist with added improvements

Syngenta UK Ltd. Registered in England No. 849037. CPC4 Capital Park, Fulbourn, Cambridge CB21 5XE. Tel: +44 (0) 1223 883400 Technical Enquiries: +44 (0) 800 1696058 Email: DEFY® is a Registered Trademark of Syngenta Group Company. DEFY (MAPP 16202) contains prosulfocarb. All other brand names used are trademarks of other manufacturers in which proprietary rights may exist. Use plant protection products safely. Always read the label and product information before use. For further product information, warning phrases and symbols refer to ©Syngenta UK Ltd. June 2021. 11532.




As this report is being written (early June), lamb prices are still at record levels, with the number of new season lambs seemingly inadequate for the demand; let us hope this trend continues throughout the summer. With the move from light lambs to 42-45kg lambs a strong trend, we are seeing excellent returns for new season lambs at between £140 to £160 in many cases, particularly where lambs were well finished but not fat. This is such an encouragement for sheep producers. It will be interesting to see where replacement stock is valued in the July sales. The cull ewe trade is also strong, with numbers easily absorbed in all sections. As would be expected at the time of year, old season lambs are reducing in number substantially, but these are still wanted at the time this report is being written, with old season lambs still seen to £150 a head and above with buyers keen to purchase weight. The cattle trade is also substantially better than we had anticipated and much better than 12 months ago, with well-finished prime cattle easily trading between 220p/kg and 250p/kg, with the relaxation

GRAHAM ELLIS FRICS FAAV FLAA For and on behalf of Stanfords T: 01206 842156 E: in Covid-19 regulations ensuring the catering trade is increasing and helping the demand. The increased prime cattle trade is also reflected in the store cattle. Prices are well above 12 months ago, with farmers looking to replace stock sold to advantage. We also saw a strong trade for cull cows and over-age prime cattle, with the wholesale catering trade looking to absorb this meat for processing and the better weather again helping the trade here with outdoor catering increasing in the summer months. It was also good to see the pig trade increasing, although it is still at low levels and a much greater increase is required. With feed prices at exceptionally high levels, pig producers still have marginal levels of return and let us hope this increases with the summer outdoor catering

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season. The cull sow trade is also increasing and we are not in the doldrums of January and February, when it was almost impossible to shift cull pigs. With the better weather at the beginning of June, tremendous growth was seen in arable crops, with a good harvest now looking likely despite some areas of East Anglia still having lower than anticipated rainfall but in general crops look tremendous and yield potential is certainly there. Grass is also at last growing, the warm weather which arrived in early June boosting the grass growth giving graziers of sheep and cattle the benefit of natural, cheaper food.


SCHEME CONSULTATION The National Sheep Association (NSA) has welcomed the consultation launched by DEFRA on the proposed lump sum exit scheme and the delinking of basic payments as “a further step towards developing clarity over the new future farming schemes and what will replace the BPS”. The consultation, launched on 19 May, lasts for 12 weeks and focuses on the exit scheme – which will offer lump sums to farmers who want to leave the industry to help them do so “in a planned and managed way” – and delinking direct payments. On de-linking, DEFRA has said: “The Government plans to phase direct payments out over a gradual seven year transition period, to move to a fairer system. The consultation includes plans to separate the payment from the amount of land farmed, from 2024. This will simplify the process for farmers, allow them to focus on running their business and encourage them to take up the government’s new Environmental Land Management schemes, which will reward sustainable food production and environmental improvements.” NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker responded: “While this consultation frames some of Defra’s thinking, we will still have to wait until October for final details and the clock is ticking fast in terms of the reductions in BPS and the development of new future farming schemes. At this stage, NSA’s thinking is that we welcome support to help those who want to retire to do so with dignity, more so than we want to see farmers encouraged to exit.” The NSA has also said it “would not want to see a new career made from devising ways to take benefit from the scheme without meaningful change on the ground”. The consultation closes on 11 August.



Reporting on the sheep market at Ashford T: 01233 502222 As we approach a relatively quiet period of year for livestock marketing following the seasonal sales of store cattle in the spring and we move from hoggets to new season lambs, it is a good time to reflect upon the recent trade for both beef and lamb. These are certainly unprecedented times for the industry, with a prolonged period of prices at record levels, with producers benefitting from unusually tight supplies and relatively strong demand at retail level and the recent return of the food service sector. The increasingly tight supplies are resulting from declining numbers of both dairy and beef breeding cows and a national sheep flock shrinking to its lowest level since 2012. This trend in production has been happening for several years due to a decade of minimal profit and poor returns for producers and increasing lack of enthusiasm amongst many of the younger generation. The demand, on the other hand, has escalated during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a surge in business at retail level for quality meat at relatively low cost compared with dining out. This shift in balance, with demand far out stripping supply, is now favouring production, with consequential price inflation and improved margins. Here at Ashford Market, the cattle throughput figures have been exceptionally good, with 2,700 finished clean cattle and cull cows sold to date, up 23% on the year, and although the 4,650 store cattle are down by 12%, this was very much expected due to the high volume of sales last autumn. April proved to be the busy month for stores, with over 2,200 sold over the four week period, with many top quality consignments from regular vendors. The entries were particularly boosted towards the end of the month with several


MAINTAINED producers selling earlier in the year than usual due to limited winter forage, lack of keep, fears of a drought summer and being encouraged to sell by the bullish trade. All beef sectors have benefitted from trade improving dramatically. Finished cattle are averaging £1,200 (plus 20%), cull cows averaging £860 (plus 16%) and store cattle averaging £800 (plus 12%) compared with recent years. This trade has been supported by increased numbers of buyers at Ashford Market, with up to nine individual outlets around the finished and cull cow ring and several new customers from the west country and north of England competing with our regular customers for store cattle. Recent highlights in the cattle section have included: • Finished steers – continental crosses: grossed £1,719, £1,623 and £1,589 from Barleybrook Farm, Heathfield; £1,631 from K & P M Sinden & Son, Sevenoaks and £1,557 from W Alexander (Shoreham) Sevenoaks and native bred £1,445 from Leggatt Farming Ltd, Maidstone. • Finished heifers – continental cross: £1,645 from A Price, Maidstone, £1,559 from W Alexander (Shoreham) Sevenoaks, £1,501 from A & M Lyon, Dover and 259p per kg from Shaun Marsh, Dover and native bred: £1,543 from Leggatt Farming Ltd, Maidstone. • Cull cows – beef: £2,242 from Andrew Price, Maidstone, £1,506 from W S Furnival (Brookland) Romney Marsh and £1,493 from G Bates Ltd, Maidstone with dairy: £1,447 from M W Goddard, Dover, £1,346 from Appleton Farms (Ledger Farm) Deal and £1,304 from W G & T A Manford, Cranbrook.

The sheep trade has been nothing short of phenomenal this year, with finished clean hoggets/lambs averaging £123 to date, plus £28 on last year and plus £38 on 2019, with cull ewes averaging £89, plus £15 on last year and plus £35 on 2019. Again, tight global supplies and relatively strong demand is driving the price to these record highs. While throughput at Ashford Market is on a par with last year, reflecting a shift back to live weight selling, we are 24% down on throughput figures of 2019. The hogget trade held strong to the end, with best hoggets selling in excess of £150 in early June, and this bullish trade continued for new season lambs. Over 5,000 new seasons lambs were sold in May, up by some 13% on the year, with several vendors drawing earlier at lighter weights than usual due to the strength of the trade. The average, which held at around 325p/ kg throughout May, was about 80p above or approximately £30 per head up on the year. Highlights in the new season lamb section have included 400p per kg (39kg grossing £156) from D T & K J Tester, Worthing; £162 from D J Morphett, Biddenden; £160 from H & J Noakes, Romney Marsh and £158 L Stevens & Sons, Sittingbourne. Top vendor of the month was Tom Masters, Seaford, selling 758 mainly 40kg to 45kg continental crosses topping at £158.50 and averaging £139 overall. Throughout May, 11,570 sheep and 1,338 cattle were traded at Ashford Market on behalf of 386 sellers from eight counties in the South East to 136 buyers from 20 counties throughout the country. This emphasises once again the solid support from both vendors and purchasers and the overall efficiency of the livestock auction system.

FURTHER REDUCTIONS IN ANTIBIOTIC USE New figures show the amount of antibiotic prescribed to treat pigs on UK farms in 2020 fell by 5%, bringing the total reduction since 2015 to 62%. Despite disease outbreaks and challenges during the pandemic that meant pigs spent more time on farm than usual, data collected using the electronic medicine book showed antibiotic use in 2020 dropped to 105 mg/PCU, compared with 110 mg/PCU in 2019 and 278 mg/PCU in 2015. The data represents more than 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK and continues the downward trend noted since recording started, although challenges with

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swine dysentery in 2019 and early 2020 saw a small upward ‘blip’. The overall result is close to the target of 99 mg/PCU set by the UK pig industry, with Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board sector strategy director Angela Christison welcoming the fall, particularly in the context of a difficult year. “This continued improvement, despite disruption to pig flow during the pandemic, is a credit to collaboration between producers, vets and the industry as a whole,” she said.

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Geographers always say that the British Isles have lots of weather but no climate, a statement that seems to be increasingly evident. The term climate implies a degree of predictability that we certainly do not appear to have. Before moving to Kent some 40 years ago I had become rather used to a degree of predictability and consistency in the patterns of the weather, particularly as I relocated from north Wales. In north Wales, if it’s raining and it’s warm you know that it is summer; if it’s raining or snowing and it’s cold it’s winter. That’s slightly unfair, Wales can have some lovely weather but you know that you are going to get plenty of rain. Being accustomed to a degree of predictability was almost certainly enhanced by the four years spent in the Middle East, where, when you get out of bed in the morning you know precisely what the day’s weather is going to be. In the summer it starts hot and gets hotter; in the winter it starts cold, frosty even, and gets hot; and if it starts warm and gets hotter it is either spring or autumn. The couple of rainy days each year are easily ignored as they tend to be more of a hindrance, messing up irrigation schedules, than a help. The first winter I was in Kent people frequently said: “Oh, this is not a normal winter.” The problem was they said the same the next winter and the one after. With the bulk of our country’s weather coming from the south west, Kent tends to get what is left over, except of course when it comes from the east and then Kent gets the lot; the past few years have simply served to reinforce this view. Back in early May, grass supplies were tight and getting tighter. Producers were pleased to see a bit of rain, but weren’t quite sure where things were going weather wise; nights were still unseasonably cold and there was always the prospect of things drying up again. As it turned out, the rain kept coming and once things started to warm up the grass was playing catch up. Typically, after a period of stress, catch up for the grass meant growing fast enough and sufficiently to put up a flower spike, determined to set seed before things changed for the worse once again. In a matter of weeks we moved from a developing famine to a feast, with grass getting away from the sheep. I have to think back a long way before I can recall a year in which I have had so much grass in front of the sheep at the end of May. This situation does, though, present a bit of a dilemma, giving us the prospect of abundant grass supplies but falling quality as it progresses towards flowering and seeding: what to do for the best. In the past I would have topped off the paddock to

ALAN WEST Sheep farmer

remove emerging seed heads before the sheep went in, but with warmer and sunnier weather once again there is always the looming prospect of things drying out again. Poor quality grass is better than no grass at all, even if it is only belly fill. However, with a combination of fairly rapid rotation around the paddocks and topping off after the sheep have moved on, I seem, more by luck than anything else, to be keeping a decent wedge of reasonably good quality grass in front of the sheep, generally managing to top off just as grass is coming up to flowering. It is nice this season to be able to use paddocks properly, the first time for several years. An additional advantage of moving sheep around the paddocks fairly quickly is that they are not hitting them too hard. Moving them on with a decent grass cover still in place is certainly helping to keep the moisture where it should be and traps a bit of dew, as well as prompting quicker regrowth. Leaving plenty above ground certainly helps what is going on below ground and leaves the roots in a much better condition than they would be with tighter grazing. We were lucky that the rain came at just the

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right time. Had we gone into a drought situation so early in the year, a lot of sheep keepers really would have been facing significant problems, particularly because after the 2020 season forage stocks are very low, and for many non-existent; the summer is only just starting. So, what can we do to help alleviate problems in future drought situations? I have already mentioned careful grazing management to conserve available moisture, but this is often easier said than done. Faced with dwindling grass supplies it is very tempting to hit grazing harder than we know is wise. Longer term solutions are available and, based upon the experiences of the recent hot and dry summers, worth exploring. One option is to make use of more drought tolerant species and varieties either in reseeds or for over-sowing; 20 years ago plant breeders would not have seriously considered developing drought tolerant varieties for the UK market; now they certainly are. Mixed species swards are another option where there is considerable and growing interest. Inclusion within a mix of some deeper-rooted species (don’t just think grass) and varieties enables the sward to draw moisture from a wider soil profile. Single species swards will have all of their roots at about the same level, all competing for the same limited soil moisture, which may be rapidly depleted, even if there is still moisture available at depth. Another alternative which also has wider benefits in terms of soil health and carbon capture capacity is to build soil organic matter levels. Sadly, organic

VET DIARY matter has been harvested from many soils over the past 50 or 60 years without any real thought given to replacing it. Substituting fertiliser to fulfil the function largely occupied by organic matter has been rather too easy. This is an approach that sadly ignores the other functions of organic matter, one of which is retaining moisture in the soil. With 1% organic matter, the soil will hold about an inch (25mm) of water. Simply increasing soil organic matter by 2% (although not quite as easy as it sounds) would increase the soil’s capacity to trap and hold moisture by about the same amount of rain that most of the South East had in May; consider what that did for grass growth. Sheep producers are in a position to do something to increase the resilience to adverse weather patterns, particularly dryer summers, but there are also ways, worthy of exploration, in which we can extend grazing seasons at both ends of the year. All of which can help to reduce costs of production, an important consideration even though sheep meat prices have remained fairly firm. Exports of sheep meat did increase by just over 10% in March, but the overall position for the first quarter of the year is that they were down by 22%, EU exports in particular falling by 26%. The impact of this on prices has been partially offset by a significant drop in imports, which have declined by some 15% overall, including a 46% drop in imports from Australia; watch this space. Trade deals, concluded with rather indecent haste, without any real consultation, could have a significant impact. New Zealand imports dropped by 10% and Irish imports by 71%, year on year, all of which have helped to sustain prices. Firm prices do have the potential to translate into enhanced producer confidence when it comes to breeding stock sales this autumn. Good quality, productive breeding stock is important for the future of the industry, and good stock is not cheap stock - hence the old adage “there are good rams and there are cheap rams, but there is no such thing as good cheap rams”. For a productive flock it is worth investing in good quality youngstock. The same principle may also be applied to young, new entrants to the sheep sector. There are some good (some very good), young shepherds out there and they need investment; investment in terms of funding for education and training that is largely the role of government, sadly a role that it has failed miserably to fulfill for decades. They also need investment in time and this falls largely to the sheep industry, we all need to be encouraging good new entrants; we need them, more than many appreciate. But along with giving them appropriate experience, we also need to foster a meaningful, open-minded and questioning approach to the industry. They need to be prepared for the 21st century not confined by dogma and attitudes from the 20th century.

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The usual post-calving and post-lambing lull has been much appreciated, giving us time to take a much needed breath before the holiday season hits us. We find much of our focus is on farmer meetings such as the Flock Health Club, running courses such as Managing Medicines and, of course, dairy, beef and sheep health reviews. We had a great on-farm Flock Health Club meeting with a demonstration and discussion around the subject of block grazing mixed species leys with both sheep and cattle. It was great to understand how one of our farmers has been adopting new grazing strategies for his downland farm. He hopes that the drought resistant sward will improve lamb performance through the usual sparse summer months and that the differing root systems will contribute to improved soil health alongside the trampling effect of the cattle improving levels of organic matter. Lamb growth will be interesting to track, as grazing higher covers and leaving higher residuals, combined with the presence of bioactive chicory in the sward, should help reduce worm burdens, improve immunity and reduce the need for worming. With a large proportion of our dairy herds being autumn block and seasonal calvers, we always spend May and June reviewing the last year’s performance and planning ahead for the following season. Many herds have already started drying off early calvers, so it is important for us to review the transition period (from dry to milking) success from last year. We review the incidence of transition-related disorders such as metritis, early lactation mastitis, retained foetal membranes, ketosis, displaced abomasa, fatty liver, disorders of fertility and early lactation death. A health review is a very useful ‘feedback’ measure of transition success or failure, but in tight block calving herds it is often too late to implement change in the same season. Managing a dairy cow can be compared to flying an aircraft. It is the take-off and landing that is trickiest to navigate but once successfully airborne it should be relatively incident free.

Now is a great opportunity for us to discuss with our farmers how they can plan ahead and use ‘feed forward’ measures to ensure that transition can be as successful as possible. Ensuring cows are dried off at appropriate body condition scores is essential, and monitoring things such as rumen fill scores (as a proxy for feed intakes) of close-up dry cows can be a useful measure. Ensuring that an optimum dietary strategy for energy and mineral balance appropriate to the system being adopted is key. Provision of adequate feed and water space should not be overlooked. Most farms will have a pinch point where stocking rates in calving paddocks peak and it is vital that the system can cope at the point of maximum stress. Maximising dry matter intakes of a restricted energy diet close to calving is of utmost importance to avoid excessive condition loss either before or after calving. Group management is also important and this will often be governed by the dietary strategy, with some farms opting for a single group, single ration, six-week dry period and others adopting a more traditional five week far-off group and a three week near-to-calving group. Any movement of cows between groups will disrupt the hierarchy, create social stress and suppress feed intakes, and as such, the frequency of group changes should be reduced as far as is practical. There are often compromises that have to be made due to factors such as the availability of labour and/or infrastructure, but sometimes changes that are relatively easy to make can make a big difference to transition and set cows up for a successful lactation.


BVM&S MRCVS, director of Cliffe Veterinary Group T: 01273 473232 E:

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Health planning for your beef herd is not only a useful way of collating your farm’s history and tasks for the year ahead; for most farm assurance schemes it is mandatory to file a health and antibiotic review. Health planning (and reviewing antibiotic usage) should not, however, be passed off as a box ticking exercise. Compiling your herd health plan (HHP) is a perfect opportunity to have a focused conversation with your vet about your challenges on the farm and your future goals. With the growing demands of farm assurance schemes, it is becoming apparent that simply signing off a health plan created years prior is not sufficient to satisfy their criteria – and nor should it be. Your farm is essentially its very own ecosystem, and subtle changes to the environment, medicine availability or legislation every year can impact on your disease risks and/or husbandry requirements. The HHP and antibiotic review requires your vet to review data including disease incidence, culling data, medicine purchases and usage. With this data, you can work together to set targets for the coming year. This is particularly important on beef farms which (unless you have, for example, fertility routines) may have longer intervals between vet visits than dairy farms. When preparing for your health plan, remember that your treatment records must be up to date to allow your vet to review on-farm medicine choices and make recommendations for effective treatment plans. This is particularly pertinent as we, as an industry, move to reduce the use not just of antibiotics in general but especially critically important antibiotics (CIAs) that have roles to play in human healthcare. It is recognised that there has been some fluctuation in the availability of certain production animal medications, from anti-inflammatories to antibiotics, over the past year. This has meant altering dosing regimes with potential for confusion, which is always worth revising during your HHP meeting. HHP reviews may give us a picture of past events on farms, but they also give us added insight into potential upcoming challenges or risks, leading us to discuss pro-active health measures that could save money, enhance profitability and improve animal welfare. If you have a common theme running through your disease records there may be building or grouping alterations, or vaccine strategies, that could be beneficial to your system. If taken up regularly (at least annually is recommended), then together with your vet you can assess your success in hitting past targets and tailor strategies that help you surpass them in the future. When inspection season looms, there is a huge increase in demand for sightunseen antibiotic reviews, which vets cannot compile effectively without a detailed look at your farm data. With this in mind it would be wise to get in touch with your


Making the most of beef health planning writes Ami Sawran BVSc CertAVP PhD MRCVS, Westpoint Chelmsford.

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veterinary surgery in good time, prior to your inspection, to make sure you have all the required paperwork, but also to take advantage of a valuable discussion opportunity. If your inspection goes ahead without this review completed, you may be given 21 days in which to file it, which puts unnecessary and stressful time constraints on you – so some forward planning is in everyone’s best interest. Your vet will no doubt sympathise that much of an assurance scheme feels more like paperwork than practical farming. However, it is important that we work together to reframe reviews and inspections as opportunities to gain valuable insight into your farm and practices, for your benefit and ultimately for the benefit of your stock. It is possible that your veterinary practice will offer different tiers of health planning, ranging from sufficient to satisfy assurance scheme requirements all the way up to comprehensive, tailored reviews of very specific farm goals with clear instructions for stockpersons to follow, particularly if more than one person is responsible for tasks on the farm. Your vet should be able to explain their different health planning services to you and advise upon the best course of action for your farm. There is benefit in having this discussion at any time of year and undoubtedly some untapped potential for herd improvement in all seasons. Don’t wait for inspection time to roll around to get in touch. If you would like to discuss anything covered in this article contact your local Westpoint practice


Westpoint Horsham Westpoint Ashford T: 01306 628086 T: 01306 628208 E:


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As I write this article I am sitting in hospital, as one of the children has suspected appendicitis. I have nothing but praise for our NHS and its staff. All have been amazing. Hopefully a quick removal is in order and normality will return. Well, so far the weather has been behaving itself. First cut silage yields would appear to be good in comparison to last year. The crops are starting to turn, and they look great. The sheep have been shorn and are feeling great about themselves. The lambs are growing well. The foal (who has yet to be named – I like the stable name Winky, but Zara is vehemently against this) is growing at a rate of knots and fingers crossed the mare is back in foal. The lambs are growing at an extraordinary rate. The combine has been serviced and is ready for the off, the yards have been cleaned out and there is just the small task of second cut silage to finish.


The summer holidays are nearly here and the excitement begins. Our Tuesday trips to market with Ted to take calves and have breakfast are nearly at an end as the threat of full-time school is upon us. I wish them lots of luck with a feral child who’s farming obsessed. He’ll count to 100 easily if its cows or sheep, but he’ll give up if you show him the numbers. He appears to know all the correct language and the context in which to use it. We shall all really miss him when he starts school; he’s been my shadow and my soul mate for the past four and a half years. I’m not sure I am ready for the serious “Ted”.


I know farmers are always whingeing, but I honestly believe that the public really does think food is produced by the supermarkets. On several occasions of late I have overheard various conversations that imply the general public really has no concept of what goes into producing the food that ends up on their plate. Since the restaurant trade has reopened,

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67 business would appear to be slow to get started. Most people are cautious of entertaining or going into public spaces. The UK beef industry has taken a slight downturn and an increase in cheap imports has been noticed. Does this mean that the UK restaurant trade is using imported meat? It would appear that as long as the cost is cheap it doesn’t matter where the food comes from. The prime minister has defended the Australian trade deal that will allow even more cheap imports to enter the country. It would appear that the government would like to give the “Aussies” a tariff-free deal within the next 10 years. Will UK farmers be able to compete with huge Australian cattle ranches or the large volume of lamb from New Zealand?


There are complaints on the local Facebook page regarding tractor driving through the village for two days… two whole days? The fact that the farm was in situ hundreds of years before you purchased your new-build house seems to have been forgotten. Following a tractor down the road raises complaints of being made late to an appointment, but when a tractor drives past a house it’s going nearly 50 mph. Really? When a tractor is on a road it’s going too slowly but when it goes past your house it’s going far too fast? The keyboard warriors were out in force

that day. Any opportunity to gives farmers a “bashing” seems to be the norm these days. Bales are moved from the field as quickly as possible, and we hope to avoid inconveniencing anyone in the locality. Unfortunately it appears this is not always possible. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ll never keep everyone happy.


Who knew it would be so difficult to search for a new pickup truck? Fergus needs to change his vehicle and has decided on a pickup. The search has been relentless and has yet to come to fruition. Nissan and Mitsubishi are moving their operations out of the Europe/UK market and shifting focus to China, the USA and Japan. New legislations in Europe and the UK regarding emissions and the political situation seem to make it unviable for them. It would appear Toyota are just hanging on in there for the moment and that leaves Isuzu and Ford. We have yet to find a battery powered pickup that can tow! Hydrogen-powered tractors and vehicles are still in their infancy so perhaps in the next five years we will see progress. An average of 70 miles per gallon could be a vast improvement on the fuel efficiency of today’s vehicles. Until next time, stay safe.

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LEAVING PROVISIONS FOR YOUR ANIMALS Philip Whitcomb, partner at law firm Moore Barlow specialising in rural matters, has outlined the key things farmers should consider when drafting a Will and the attention they need to give to their animals’ future to ensure they are taken care of. “As living beings, there are multiple aspects to consider when it comes to deciding what will happen to our beloved animals once we die, including how animals will be looked after and by whom,” he explained. Here he outlines his ‘top tips’ to South East Farmer:



Livestock Farmers have the added complication in that it is not just one or two animals but a whole herd that will need to be looked after. These will be classed as business assets and devolve along with the assets of the business, whereas a beloved pet is classed as a chattel and will, unless otherwise bequeathed, form part of the deceased’s residuary estate. In other words, how a Will is structured will determine how animals are catered for. Extra complications can arise when considering working animals, such as sheep dogs, as there is no definitive classification. Are they an asset of the business or a beloved family pet? This means farmers should clearly state how they wish the animal to be viewed in their Will.

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Pets are considered personal chattels, which means money cannot be left directly to them. Their needs, such as food and vet bills, can become expensive but still need to be provided for. Options such as leaving a gift in a Will and specifying the money is solely to be passed to the beneficiary to care for the pet can help ensure they can cover the costs. It is important to bear in mind, though, that there is no legal obligation for the beneficiary to satisfy this wish.


You can name up to four executors in the Will as being responsible for dealing with the estate. Who looks after the animals does not need to be specified. Selecting a person or people who have a basic knowledge of farming and looking after animals both working or larger, such as horses, will help ensure those left behind do not feel in the dark and help to relieve some pressure. Extra support can also be left in the form of a list with key professional contacts, for example vets, accountants and advisors. This will make it easier for care to be consistent and continuous during this time of change. Probate is the judicial process which sees a Will validated as the true last testament of the deceased. During this period the executors take on responsibility for the animals. Often neighbouring farmers will happily act as executors to give help and guidance. To help facilitate this, it would be wise to ask if they would be on hand to assist to give an added layer of security for the farm.

Contingency plans, particularly to cover the probate period, ensure there is someone to look after the farm in the interim. The plan should include everyday aspects such as who will feed the animals, dealing with the regulatory paperwork for livestock and what to do if any get ill. If relatives are already involved in the farm, they can take a more hands-on role in maintaining the usual running of the business. Another crucial inclusion in the contingency plan is how bills and staff will be paid. This is particularly important if a farmer is a sole trader as everything relies on them ensuring processes are running smoothly. Understanding banks may agree an overdraught facility in the short term to enable the executor to continue to pay for the upkeep of livestock. Having a joint bank account with a partner, even if they’re not involved in the farm, allows funds to continue to be accessed post-death. For farms run through a partnership, if there is no written partnership agreement the death of a partner will mean an immediate dissolution of the business. This means any overdraft facility immediately ceases, which could result in a cash flow issue. No one knows their animals better than the person who owns them. Whether part of a farm or a family pet, they are a huge responsibility. While making provisions for those closest, providing for animals is vital too, as they will need immediate care. The most important element is planning ahead and ensuring clarity, speaking to those you wish to take over and organising assets and paperwork so it is easy for people to understand what is wanted and needed.

If your business needs help with: • Contracts and transactions • Diversification • Property purchase and lease negotiation • Equine law • Employment If you would like help with: • Family law and divorce • Residential conveyancing • Tax planning and trusts • Wills and estate administration

Contact us today Canterbury 01227 643250 Maidstone 01622 698000 Tenterden 01580 765722

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No matter if an animal is seen as a pet or part of the farm business, communication with those who will succeed a farmer in looking after the animals is crucial. It’s vital to ensure whoever takes over the farm, or takes on the pet, is comfortable in doing so to avoid a person feeling trapped or an animal being left with no care.


We have a real commitment to the rural sector, providing responsive and accessible legal advice to farmers, producers and their suppliers.

Whitehead Monckton Limited (no. 08366029), registered in England & Wales. Registered office 5 Eclipse Park, Sittingbourne Road, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 3EN Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under no. 608279.




In May the government launched a consultation on exit payments to farmers, to encourage older generations to retire and enable younger farmers to enter the industry. The proposal, that farmers could be paid a lump sum up to £100,000 to retire, forms part of the wider overhaul of grants and schemes set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan. Regardless of the reasons for retirement, having a plan in place is the most effective way to safeguard the future of your farm and ensure a smooth transition when the time comes to hand over the reins. The proposed payments won’t be suitable for everyone and many in the sector will continue with the traditional route of handing down their farming business. So what do you need to consider when planning for the succession of your agricultural business?


Making lifetime gifts can often be a tax efficient way of passing on your estate to the next generation. A gift made seven years before your death is treated as exempt for Inheritance Tax purposes on your death. Certain lifetime gifts may also qualify for agricultural property relief from Inheritance Tax, subject to conditions. However, in the case of assets which are likely to increase in value (e.g. land with potential for future development) gifting whilst the value is low is preferable, regardless of the seven year rule. This is because it is the value of the gift at the time it was made that is considered on your death, not the value that the asset went on to achieve. Bear in mind that lifetime gifts can also have unintended adverse Inheritance Tax consequences. For example, if a gift of land is made but you hold some of the land to harvest standing crop, this may constitute a gift with reservation of benefit and the value of the gift could be brought back into the value of your estate when you die. Similarly, you should consider Capital Gains Tax (CGT), which is charged on the difference between the base cost and the disposal value of certain assets.


You may have specific wishes for certain aspects of your business, or for the distribution and division of land. This is all very well while you remain at the helm, but in the unfortunate event of your death, the only way to ensure your intentions are carried out is by creating a legally binding Will. It is always advisable to review your Will every few years to ensure that it still reflects your wishes and any recent changes in circumstances. Your Will is also an important tool to help to mitigate Inheritance Tax.


A registered lasting power of attorney (LPA) for property and financial affairs enables your attorneys to act on your behalf. This means that, in the event that you lose mental capacity, they will be able to make decisions for you in a number of transactions such as signing documents, negotiating commercial contracts, making investments and transferring land.


Without an LPA, the court will decide who should make decisions about your business. This can be a costly and time consuming process. It can also cause delays, not only in the day to day running of your business but also ongoing transactions such as negotiations regarding the purchase or sale of development land. A separate power of attorney may be created dealing specifically with business assets, so that decisions regarding your private assets or accounts and those solely in respect of the business can be dealt with by different people.


Having a partnership agreement in place can help reduce the impact on your business if you were to be incapacitated or in the event of your death. An agreement provides peace of mind that, if the worst were to happen, a mechanism is in place to help your successor take over from you. For family partnerships this is usually invaluable. Partnerships will also need to carefully consider the exit payment provisions within the context of their existing partnership agreements and consider any unintended adverse consequences and make relevant changes. The exit payment consultation closes on 11 August 2021. Professional advice should always be sought when considering succession planning, to take into account all relevant factors including the effect of any gifts or sales on the taxation of your estate during your lifetime and beyond.

CHRISTOPHER ERIKSSON-LEE Partner, Brachers LLP T: 01622 776465 E:

Helping our agricultural community to thrive and grow Proud to be sponsoring the Kent County Summer Fayre Kent Showground, 10 and 11 July 2021

Call us on 01622 690691 Visit us at

TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

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While the much-vaunted planning reforms in the Queen’s Speech turned out to be a bit of a damp squib due to a lack of detail, the headline grabbing issue of ‘land banking’ does not appear to be far from the news. The most popular headline which rears its head on a regular basis is the “1m planning permissions left undeveloped” argument, rolled out regularly by the Local Government Association and the CPRE, the countryside charity, in various guises. The allegation is that developers obtain planning permission then refuse to build out the site as they simply sit back and wait for the value of the land to rise over time. The truth, however, is, as you would expect, more complex than an eye-catching headline number.




Having worked in the property industry for more than 20 years, I have always been aware of one consistent problem; time. Obtaining planning permission is only half the battle; implementing the planning permission and starting on site is another story in itself. The system is simply not designed to allow developers to implement their planning permissions quickly. Invariably, delays occur when seeking to discharge the numerous pre-commencement conditions imposed while seeking to negotiate and obtain the requisite legal agreements with the local authorities. All of this takes time, and in the background the Government’s ambition to develop 300,000 houses per year keeps on ticking along. In addition, every local authority in England is required to have ‘at least’ a five-year supply of housing, which, if taken literally, would mean at least 1.5m planning permissions for new homes being required every year. The accusation of 1m unbuilt homes provoked controversy, so the industry decided to fight back.


The Land Promoters’ and Developers’ Federation (LPDF) and the Home Builders’ Federation (HBF), jointly commissioned Lichfields to produce a report titled Taking Stock: the geography of housing need, permissions and completions. The aim of the research was to explore the existing pipeline of sites for housing development compared with what might be needed to meet the Government’s ambitions for 300,000 net additional homes per annum across England. The report seeks to dismiss the 1m unused planning consents argument by highlighting the fact that, due to a variety of factors such as discharge of planning conditions, re-planning of sites to reflect demand, lapse rates (where consents are not implemented due to other factors e.g., landowners choosing

not to sell), the number of consents required is in fact approximately 1.7 million. In particular, the report states: “Each year the number of permissions granted will include homes on sites that would not be built out in one or two years, some sites await funding for infrastructure (which can only be sought once permission is granted) and – very importantly – some permissions will be replacement permissions for approvals granted in previous years to reflect technical changes, re-design, alterations in housing mix or design detail. Successive years of units with permission will therefore incorporate significant double counting.”


Having worked for both land promoters and housebuilders, I can safely say that it is simply illogical for them not to develop a site as soon as possible after planning permission has been obtained. Put simply, it costs too much money not to implement the consent, as seeking to obtain planning permission in the first instance involves a large amount of time, money and resource which needs to be recovered as quickly as possible. Having spent a significant six or seven figure sum to obtain planning permission, it takes very deep pockets indeed to simply wait and hope that the value of the land will increase year on year. Both land promoters and housebuilders need to recover this capital quickly, ensuring that the business can continue trading and any profits made can be reinvested in future sites. We will wait to see whether this latest piece of evidence succeeds in quelling the land banking debate. In a speech to the Home Builders’ Federation annual policy conference in May this year, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick conceded that his department’s own figures confirmed that over 95% of detailed planning permissions for housing were being implemented or being worked towards implementation. However, he then went on to say: “Notwithstanding this figure, this issue is still a matter of concern to the public, so we will announce shortly some new measures to address it.” Maybe I spoke too soon…

Could your land have development potential? Find out more about land promotion


Planning & Operations Director, Catesby Estates plc T: 01926 836910 E: W:

J U LY 2 0 2 1 | W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T

Clare Bartlett MRTPI PIEMA Kirsty Castle MRTPI AIEMA

As Chartered Town Planners, we should be your first contact whatever development, extension or change of use you are thinking about.






For more information, contact Savills on 01732 879050



EXCITING DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY Savills has launched Sutton Lodge Farm, an arable farm of nearly 394 acres, for sale. Set on the Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire border, the sale could be an exciting development opportunity. At the heart of the property is a 4,200 sq. ft ironstone farmhouse. The building, which until recently was used as offices, has the potential to be transformed into a substantial family home, with change of use already consented. To the rear of the farmhouse is a range of traditional farm buildings set around a courtyard. Also within the courtyard and adjoining the farmhouse is a two-bedroom cottage that is currently let. Further potential can be found set away from the farmhouse and other buildings. Known as Sutton Lodge Cottage, the 2,070 sq. ft house is in need of complete renovation or replacement. The ring-fenced land is predominantly arable, farmed under rotation by a local business for a number of years. Its fields are suited to modern machinery and bordered by mature hedges and beetle banks. There is also pasture, woodland and an area of grassland. Philip Hoare is marketing the property for Savills and commented: “Boasting an extensive range of buildings, Sutton Lodge Farm combines interesting development opportunities with a good arable farm in a beautiful rural location

TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

between the villages of King’s Sutton and Middleton Cheney. The south-facing farmhouse at its centre could become a handsome family home, while the cottage and farm buildings have great potential for a number of different uses.” Sutton Lodge Farm is on the market for a guide price of £4.7million plus VAT.

WEST SUSSEX Fully fitted Slaughterhouse with 6 chill rooms and butchery Available to let from September 2021 Contact Andrew Algar  01403 282519  W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1






BTF Partnership is offering for sale three parcels of agricultural land extending to nearly 350 acres. These will provide a boost to the South East land market which has seen a shortage of land onto the open market over the past few years. The Franks farmland at Horton Kirby, near Swanley, is 164.29 acres of mainly arable land available as a whole or in two lots. Lot 1 is 143.01 acres of arable land which is mostly Grade II and Grade III. Lot 2 is 12.45 acres of arable land and 6.33 acres of deciduous woodland. The land has grown an arable rotation in recent years with some maize. Due to the chalky sub-soil of both parcels of land, this might be suitable for vineyard planting. The guide price for Lot 1 is £1,275,000 and Lot 2 £225,000.

The Land known as Keepers Field at Throwley, near Faversham, is a parcel of Grade II arable land extending to about 33.14 acres. The land has grown a wide variety of combinable crops, with Spring Wheat drilled in 2021. The guide price is £300,000 and the closing date for informal tenders is Friday 25 June. The third opportunity is at Appledore, Kent, with land and buildings available as a whole or in three lots with a guide price of £2.5m. Lot 1 consists of 141.63 acres of Grade III agricultural land. Lot 2 is 1.52 acres with buildings and a residential consent and Lot 3 is 5.01 acres


including a strategic rural building plot. Richard Thomas at BTF Partnership commented: “These sizeable parcels of land open up some new opportunities for existing farm businesses that are looking to expand as the land market here in Kent has seen very little land coming onto the open market in the last couple of years. “The Franks farmland is particularly interesting as it has potential for vineyard planting, a growing sector here in Kent. Now, with both the uncertainty of Brexit and to some extent the worst of the pandemic behind us, farmers and landowners can plan ahead for the future.”

Further details can be found at:

P O T J U LY 2 0 2 1 | W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T


All wheat, no chaff. However you’re looking to develop your business, our brilliant team of industry experts will be able to help. Whether it’s advice on planning and land promotion, or help with grant funding, environmental consultancy and estate management, we’re the only name you need to know.


Haywards Heath


Tunbridge Wells

01424 775577

01444 412402

01798 877555

01892 509280




Total BPS payment









































% of 2020 BPS payment receivable £/ha BPS payment receivable


Lump sum


£233 £100,000

Total if 2022 – 2027 payments taken each year:

Strutt & Parker has produced a calculator to compare what farmers might expect to receive under DEFRA’s lump sum exit scheme with the Basic Payments they are projected to receive if they continue to claim throughout the rest of the agricultural transition period (2022-2027). DEFRA’s proposal is to pay farmers 2.35 x the average of the BPS payment across 2018-20 (adjusted for subsequent transfers out of entitlements), with the lump sum payable subject to a payment cap of £100,000. Strutt & Parker’s calculations show that lowland farms over 182ha will be affected by the £100,000 cap. For this size farm, this equates to £549/ha. Jonathan Armitage, head of farming, says: “Modelling suggests that if the farmer of the 182ha farm does not take the lump sum, they could expect to be paid £113,341 (which equates to £622/ha) over the period 2022 to 2027. This is based on how DEFRA has said payments will be reduced until 2024 and then on our assumption of a straight line cut from then to 2028. “Therefore, the farmer might receive £13,341 or 12% less from taking the lump sum. Or put another way, they could lose most of the payments they were due to receive in 2026 and 2027.


Difference £13,341



CALCULATOR “It has always been anticipated that the sums of money would probably not be large enough on their own for wholesale change, but they may still bring forward some decisions and start some new conversations between landlords and tenants, and farmers looking for an opportunity to exit.” If you would like to run the figures for your farm through the calculator, please contact



Hampshire -14acre acre- Guide - Guide £725,000 Hampshire--Liss Liss -14 £750,000 Locatedwithin within the the National established Located NationalPark Parkwell well established farm, well drained sandy soil, approximately farm, well drained sandy soil, approximately 6000 6000 sq ft of barns, excellent potential stp sq ft of barns, excellent potential stp

Surrey -Thursley 7 7acres £2.2m Surrey - Thursley acresFarmhouse Farmhouse £2.2m Beautifully presented bed3800sq 3800sqftftperiod period Beautifully presented 5 5bed farmhouse, full of charm and character, annex, farmhouse, full of charm and character, annex, office, garaging, swimming pool. Approx 5 acres of paddocks,swimming excellent riding office, garaging, pool. country Approx 5 acres of paddocks, excellent riding country

Bespoke Planning Advice

for your planning journey Surrey - Tadworth - 14 acres - Grazing Land Surrey - Tadworth - 14 acres - Grazing Land Sold by tender byoftender well inSold excess Guide price wellPARCELS in excessOF ofLAND GuideREQUIRED price SIMILAR SIMILAR PARCELS OF LAND REQUIRED

Surrey - Normandy -- 10.5 yard Surrey - Normandy 10.5acres acresStable Stable yard 7 box stable yard , located just off the Guildford 7 box stable yardexcellent , locatedpotential, just off the Guildford Road affording extensive Road affording excellent potential, extensive riding on Common & Army land close by riding on Common & Army land close by

12 months has seen a large increase in the TheThe pastpast 12 months has seen a large increase in the demand demand for land and properties with land with prices in for land and properties with land with prices in some cases some cases considerably exceeding expectations considerably exceeding expectations

For Professional Service & Advice For Professional Service & Advice PELHAMS 01252 PELHAMS 01252781640 781640

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CIRENCESTER 01285 323200

Chartered Town Planner


LOT 1 — IN EXCESS OF £155,000 LOT 2 — IN EXCESS OF £200,000


WELL LOCATED BLOCK A well located block of agricultural land on the immediate outskirts of the expanding village of Biddenden in the Weald of Kent with considered planning potential (subject to planning consent) is on the market with Lambert & Foster; in all some 29.44 acres is for sale as a whole or in two Lots. The land is located in the favoured Cranbrook School catchment area on the immediate north western outskirts of the village of Biddenden in the Weald of Kent.


This comprises two level pasture fields divided

by an established hedge with access directly off Maids Close. The land extends to some 8.44 acres/3.44 hectares and has a water supply connected.


This land is accessed over the newly created Right of Way over Lot 1. The land extends in all to some 21 acres/8.50 hectares of mainly level Grade III Wealden pastureland with ponds and woodland shaws. The land is crossed by two public footpaths running east to west and south east to north west across the land. No services are connected to Lot 2.

> Lot 2



Further details can be found at: > Lot 1

TH & Co



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We are available to carry out ESSENTIAL REPAIR WORKS to AGRICULTURAL LIVESTOCK/STORAGE BUILDINGS etc Kenward Construction based in Horsham, West Sussex offer a full design and build service for your next steel framed building including composite cladding, concrete panels, roller shutter doors and bespoke designs to meet individual planning conditions. Kenward Construction also offer a wide range of services offering a truly one stop shop for your next farm building project. Demolition, plant hire, access roads, drainage, sewage treatment plants, rainwater harvesting, biobed wash downs, paving, concrete foundations / slabs, walling and site landscaping.

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J U LY 2 0 2 1 | W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T / 07813 747 361


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All suitable for fuel, water and effluent Call today for details


Tel 01638 712328



COMPLETE OUR CROSSWORD TO WIN Two bottles of Gribble Bridge Sparkling White









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Item on television (9) Organise (4) An area for maintaining ships (8) Courage (5) Used for fishing (4) Tall perennial grass (7) Small -------------, butterfly (13) Cattle breed (3,4) Bunny (6) Misbehaved (7) Slight (4) Argumentative (9) A bird that is a rare UK visitor (8) Cricket term (4)


Crossword by Rebecca Farmer, Broadstairs, Kent

PRIZE ANAGRAM: Machinery (7,6)

1 Part of bicycle (5) 2 Happen (5) 3 Flat bodied fish (4) 4 Cocktail (7) 5 Taint, tarnish (5) 6 Shipping forecast area (7) 9 ---- Redding, singer songwriter (4) 12 Raised dwelling (9) 13 Also; in addition (3) 14 Evergreen flowering shrub (4) 16 Female swan (3) 17 A form of tax (5) 18 Pub typically with accommodation (3) 20 An order of tailless amphibians (5) 21 Hand protection (5) 22 Pay out (5) 23 Cricket term (5)

To enter, simply unscramble the

anagram (7,6) using the green squares.

Email your replies with your name, address and phone number to Correct entries will be entered into a draw which will take place on 13 July. The winner will be announced in the August edition. TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883





With the Euros underway this month we’re offering readers the chance to win two bottles of Gribble Bridge Sparkling White – celebrations or commiserations? Biddenden Vineyards is Kent’s oldest commercial vineyard producing award winning wines, ciders and juices. For more information about the vineyards, please visit or call 01580 291726. *Subject to availability


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Correct answer: Codling moth LAST MONTH’S WINNER: John Handy from Newbury, Berkshire

W W W. S O U T H E A S T FA R M E R . N E T | J U LY 2 0 2 1

QUALITY STILL STACKS UP 10 years Recommended and still going strong Highest protein content of any Recommended Group 1 Winter Wheat Best combination of Yellow Rust and Septoria tritici resistance in the sector Fully Approved as a bread wheat for export Highest yielding Group 1 variety in 2019


Reduce your risk and grow Crusoe as your Group 1 of choice @LGSeedsUK

Tel: 01472 371471 Tel: 01472 371471 Tel: 01472 371471

Profile for KELSEY Media

South East Farmer July 2021  

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