Charlie Beaty: Sheep could be key to successful OSR

The new productivity grants have gone live.

This time, we see 119 items on the list (including an ATV winder for electric fencing which I’ve got my eye on – whatdy’a reckon Dad?), and the minimum grant value has fallen to £2,000, making it much more accessible to smaller farming businesses and new entrants.

Contractors are now also eligible to apply. Why on earth they weren’t originally baffles me, as they are a huge part of the farming industry, with just as big a need for efficiency improvements.

About the author

Charlie Beaty
Harper Adams University graduate Charlie has a keen interest in the livestock sector, being heavily involved in the beef and sheep enterprises at home, as well as the arable and contracting side of things. The 25-year-old is an active member of Warwickshire YFC and loves travelling the world.
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As for that ATV fencing kit… well, after two days of setting out electric fencing around our oilseed rape, I reckon it’ll pay for itself pretty quickly.

This year, we’re trying something a bit different. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve grown a (successful) crop of oilseed rape, with cabbage stem flea beetle proving a formidable adversary alongside the pigeons.

See also: Charlie Beaty – next generation faces mind-boggling barriers

Thanks to hours of scrolling Instagram (I promise I do actually do some work), we’ve managed to establish a pretty decent-looking crop so far.

After coming across Cotswold farmer Ed Horton, documenting his journey of growing a chemical-free crop of rape, we’ve decided to give it a go.

We started by planting a companion crop of buckwheat, clover and fenugreek alongside it.

The buckwheat got off to a storming start, shadowing the rape, camouflaging it from the flea beetle and the pigeons.

Unfortunately, its time was limited when we had to spray for charlock. By this point, though, its job was done and we had a slightly nibbled but otherwise healthy crop.

We now have sheep – non-electric-fence trained, may I add – grazing a healthy crop of combinable rape.

The plan is that the sheep will remove the green-leaf matter, eliminating the early stages of phoma that have appeared here and there, and our need to control it with a fungicide.

Apparently, the trick is to let the sheep take enough, but not too much. I’ve been repeatedly told it’s a fine line.

So if you need me, you’ll find me nervously watching woolly escape artists filling their bellies.