A family business, farming 2400 ha on predominately light soils along the heritage coast between Aldeburgh and Woodbridge. Primary Cropping is based around vegetables such as potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, swedes, turnips, leeks, spring greens, savoy, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. They also grow combinable crops such as wheat, winter and spring barley as well as feedstock for an Anaerobic Digester plant, which utilises the waste vegetables and whole crop rye.
Working with five other farms along the coast they have formed a collaborative marketing group called 3M’s through which their potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips are sold. This enables them to access around 14,000 ha and strengthens their marketing opportunities. All this is based at Bentwaters, a disused airbase, where hangers have been converted into onion and potato stores.
They run a flock of 1500 breeding ewes and 300 followers. The main breed of ewe is a Suffolk x mule, the other ewes are mules or Lleyns. The mules act as a nucleus flock for the commercial breeding flock. Several breeds of rams are used enabling a steady flow of lambs to sell through the autumn, winter and early spring. The main ram breeds are Cheviot, Poll Dorset, Berrichon Du Cher, Beltex and Suffolk.
The sheep flock was set up about 6 years ago to utilise waste produced from the vegetable operations and the pockets of grass along the coast which cannot be cultivated. Shepherd, Richard Whitney is responsible for all the flocks and will be managing the data capture for the RamCompare project using the Farmplan software system.
Due to the amount of winter brassicas grown, their most abundant feed source is in the winter. The sheep enterprise has a specific role of removing the waste left in the field and ensuring the efficient removal of the brassica as a volunteer weed in the following crop. The flock are not fed any concentrates, except just before and after lambing. Lambing occurs outdoors in April. At lambing each ewe with her lambs is brought in for 24 hours to ensure mother and lambs are strong enough to return back to grazing outside. The sheep are part of a sustainable farming system that will hopefully enhance the environment over future years.
“As a business we were keen to get involved with RamCompare to assist us in developing our sheep enterprise,” farm manager, Richard Parry said.
“We want to be able to assess which individual traits perform best within our farming system to produce the best lambs from our enterprise. We are fascinated to see which terminal sires are brought in over the coming years and how the progeny from different breeds respond to our system.”