3 July 1998

FARM IS FLYING HIGH ON OLD RAF AIRFIELD

A DISUSED airfield is proving an ideal farm base for North Yorks farmer Philip Mellor.

A converted RAF building, which once accommodated fire crews and their tenders, is now the farm house. And that allows him to keep a close eye on his 200-head pedigree Holstein dairy herd plus 300 followers.

Although the 222ha (520-acre) Dodsworth Farm, Wheldrake, is predominantly sandland, wet weather since March has made grazing management difficult because of standing water and heavy poaching.

At least one of the old airfields hardstanding areas provides a secure base for the farms silage clamp. Another benefit of the farms location is airfield grasses which contribute a major proportion of the dairy herds winter feed.

Cows are fed a sandwich of distillers grains topped with potato waste, grass silage, potato waste, maize silage and potato waste. Mr Mellor prefers to use potato waste to seal his silage clamp, avoiding the use of plastic sheeting and old car tyres.

Five loads totalling 100t of potato by-product on top of a 1000t grass silage clamp provides a good seal and produces silage without waste, he explains.

The farm grows 13ha (32 acres) of maize and 11ha (27 acres) of whole crop wheat to supplement grass silage.

His dairy herd averages 9700 litres which, Mr Mellor says, is making an essential contribution to his farming business. The cows have never done better, he explains.

Like farmers throughout the UK, Mr and Mrs Mellor are having to make heavy sacrifices to maintain the viability of their farming business. They do all the milking themselves, having at one time employed two cow men.

And all that exercise has led Mr Mellor to abandon his old farm office in the aircraft control tower. The 80ft office in the air provided an uninterrupted view of his farmland. And the 80 steps to the control tower detered uninvited visitors.

But Mr Mellor has been beaten by the steps that were suppose to put off unwanted visitors. The pressure on legs and lungs climbing up to the office has proved just too much, he says.

But the tower provides his family with a good view of motor car and motor cycle time trials held regularly on the 3100m runway – the longest in the UK. &#42

Farming on a disused airfield has given a lift to the business of Philip Mellor. But an office in the control tower proved to be 80 steps too far.