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Introducing our new Farmer Focus contributor

19 April 2002

FARMERFOCUS

Introducing our new Farmer Focus contributor

Murray Garret

Murray Garret farms 96ha

(240 acres) at Rowden

Farm, near Leighton

Buzzard, Beds. The whole

farm is permanent pasture

on heavy clay land. He runs

100 spring calving South

Devon suckler cows and a

flock of 200 Friesland

milking sheep

LIVESTOCK buildings at Rowden Farm are a mixture of ancient and modern. Unfortunately, the rather attractive old brick buildings contribute little to our limited labour resources which consist of my father Ken and 15-year-old nephew Ben, when available after school.

We used to employ a sandwich year student and I taught animal husbandry at a local agricultural college. However, after 13 years I felt I needed a new challenge and gave up the guaranteed salary and paid holidays to put all my energies into developing the family business.

Rowden is home to the Billington herd of pedigree South Devon cattle. We run 100 spring calving sucklers plus followers. The herd is Signet recorded and averages in the top 25% for beef value. Heifers are calved down at two years old to a home-bred Angus x South Devon bull. Their female progeny have gained a premium as commercial sucklers for JSR Farms composite breeding programme.

All cows are bred to top index South Devon bulls aiming to produce high value breeding stock. We currently have 10 young bulls with beef values in the top 1%.

We are keen on showing and we are enormously disappointed that we will not exhibit cattle at the Royal Show this year. DEFRA rules on quarantining were virtually impossible to implement and recent amendments have come too late in the day.

This is a typical case of DEFRA not caring about the livestock industry and muddling from one thing to the next. Showing requires animals to be halter trained months in advance and must be done 100% professionally.

All our male calves are kept entire and those not good enough for breeding are finished intensively and marketed at 12 months old between 550kg and 600kg liveweight, usually grading U3.

We also run a flock of 200 Friesland milking sheep, 100 of these lamb indoors in late January. The other half, including replacement ewe lambs, lamb at grass in May.

The best recorded ewes are put in the early batch and bred pure; everything else is covered by a Texel or Charollais ram. Milking takes place between March and November. &#42

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Introducing our new Farmer Focus contributor…

21 March 1997

Introducing our new Farmer Focus contributor…

Louis Baugh and his wife farm 186ha (460 acres) at Neatishead Hall and 91ha (225 acres) at Beech Farm near Norwich in Norfolk. About 100 autumn calving Holstein Friesian cows and followers are grazed on Broads ESA marshes with forage from Italian ryegrass and maize

AS A new contributor to Farmer Focus I though I would outline my family and farm background.

I am a miners son from Yorkshire and my route into farming was via pigs and poultry, working in most livestock sectors before settling with cows. I attended Harper Adams where I met my wife Fran, then moved into farm management. Fran worked in the dairy feed industry as a technical specialist for 13 years before returning home to split her time between independent dairy consultancy and our own cows.

The dairy sits on the margin between grazing and arable land, the cows are grazed on ESA peat marshes bordering the River Ant and two nature reserves. The pasture level is below river level and in some places sea level. Our grazings were formerly reed beds cut for roofing. Today the water table is controlled by Internal Drainage Board pumps which lift the water to river level. Our annual rainfall is 24in. We can supplement this by turning our pumps off and retaining water with sluice boards.

Springs can be cold and late, causing our permanent pasture to grow away slowly. Our usual turnout onto the marsh is May 1. The ESA agreement limits inputs and to be honest the indigenous species would show limited response if they were increased. Summer grazing is extensive, and to do otherwise would cause widespread damage by poaching.

Since 1982 we have evolved our feeding methods from the traditional East Norfolk system of variable marsh grass silage kale, sugar beet tops, straw and other arable by-products.

The current system is based on 80 acres of Italian ryegrass grown as a catch crop on our arable land. It is drilled in September after a cereal crop, with one cut made in mid-May. Muck is spread and ploughed down and 38-48 acres are drilled with an early maturing maize variety.

That gives us security of forage quality and quantity which we could not get from our marshes. Surplus marsh grass is baled and wrapped for youngstock and dry cows. The constraints of low rainfall and poor soil type dictates that margins are best maintained by aiming for high results a cow, through autumn calving, feeding ryegrass and maize silage mixed with straights. &#42

New contributor Louis Baugh is a first generation farmer, and runs 100 Holstein Friesians on the Broads ESA marshes in north east Norfolk.

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