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James Marshall, Farm & Estate Manager at Armeria (UK) LLP / Castletown Trst LLP considers the outlook as they approach the end of harvesting.Facts:-

  • 4700 acres including 2700 acres of tidal saltmarsh, 600 acres temporary grass leys, 80 acres winter barley, 60 acres winter wheat, 100 acres spring beans, 150 acres spring barley, 105 acres maize 10 acres fodder beet, 4 acres wild bird mix remainder permanent pasture, grazed woodlands and woodland. Majority of the land is in Stewardship schemes
  • 1200 finishing cattle, 80 suckler cows, 1150 breeding sheep with all lambs finished.
  • Growing crops for home consumption also supplying 3 neighbouring dairies with grass and maize silage.

Looking out the office window at another wet day on the first day of autumn in this top corner of North West England it again confirms that whole crop and crimping of cereals is the correct way forwards here as it takes out a massive risk of trying to combine dry. In fact, we only “failed” by having to combine 15 acres of the winter barley that had gone very flat which took a lot of patience to get dry enough.

These cereals form the basis of a TMR that we feed to the finishing cattle many of which graze the saltmarsh during the summer. We try to concentrate on native breeds such as Hereford, Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus and Galloways also fast finishing Charolais and Simmental continentals.

We supply several outlets such as Woodhead’s for Morrisons and Scotbeef for Marks and Spencer’s. The Galloways are mostly sold to more specialist retailers and butchers.

The pain being felt through the cattle finishing industry in the UK now must be making everyone question their sanity in continuing as even with mostly home-grown feeds in our rations the end price received falls far short of what we require. The fact is that further purchases of store cattle will need to fall substantially in price for things to balance out. However, this sends the wrong message to the keeper of suckler cows which is the backbone of environmentally friendly upland farms as they make use of poorer ground whilst storing Carbon.

Fortunately, we only have our whole crop beans, maize and a small 3rd cut of silage still to complete which fingers crossed the weather should settle down again.

My favourite crop this year is one that we will not harvest or graze so no pressure there! We have been growing a small amount of Stewardship Wild Bird Mix for several years and it is surprising the benefit it brings to pollinating insects as well as providing cover and food source for bird life. Going forward a small area taken out of arable production for this type of cover would be more beneficial than many of the current options for Ecological Focus Area that we are expected to maintain under the current RPA system.

James Marshall
Farm and Estate Manager
Armeria (UK) LLP / Castletown Trust LLP.

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