John Geldard farms 175ha (430-acres) near Kendal on the southern edge of the Lake District. Stock
comprises 50 suckler cows, with progeny finished
alongside 300-400 bought-in stores, 100 ewes plus 250 ewe lamb replacements, of which 160 are pedigree Charollais, and a 25,000
bird poultry enterprise.
OUR 430-acre farm is split into two units, the main holding being the 398-acre Low Foulshaw Farm, built on a greenfield site on the edge of the Kent Estuary at Levens, and including 100 acres of marsh. We also rent 10 acres and the buildings at Middle Foulshaw Farm, while another 22 acres is at Low Plumgarths Farm on the northern edge of Kendal.
It is a family run business and employs three other full-time workers and five part time. We also hire extra casual labour for building work, a regular occurrence since we moved to the greenfield site in 1988.
Stocking consists of 50 suckler cows, mostly Limousin cross put to the Charolais bull, with calves finished on the holding. We also buy in store cattle, finishing 300 to 400 a year.
The sheep enterprise consists of 1000 ewes plus 250 ewe lamb replacements, of which 160 are pedigree Charollais. The rest are Llyens and a few Mules, which are being phased out.
The Charollais and about 180 commercial ewes are sired by Charollais rams and lambed in December and January to produce the early lambs for the spring market and rams for sale. The main flock of ewes is lambed in March, most of them bred pure to produce flock replacements. The Llyen ewe lambs are usually lambed in April to the Charollais ram, producing lambs to be sold later in the year.
The poultry enterprise consists of 25,000 free-range laying birds in four units. The eggs from these are marketed into retail outlets such as grocers, butchers, delicatessens, hotels, restaurants, cafes and some to ASDA superstores. The rest are sold to a packer.
January has been a good start to the year as far as the weather goes. On this low-lying farm we relish fine weather, which lets us get muck and slurry out.
The lambs are doing well. The pedigree Charollais look promising, and the cross breeds are off to a good start. We will soon be weaning the first batch of cross breeds and selling old ewes. Let us hope the cull market keeps up.
In mid-January we housed the March lambers carrying triplets and twins. The singles go back on to the marsh until two weeks before lambing. We also scanned the Llyen ewe lambs, which were with the ram from Nov 8 to Nov 30. The results were 39 barren, 91 singles and 61 twins. Too many of the latter, I think.
At Ulverston market on Jan 23 one heifer in our consignment – bought earlier for £358 – grossed £534, but is this a good enough margin? I have my doubts when you deduct every little cost, and with the price slipping this week margins could be slim. The one thing that amazes me is the price of store cattle, which certainly bears no relation to the finished cattle price today.
On the poultry front, egg trade in early January was good. But the past two weeks have been quieter in line with the trend of recent years. The end of January sees consumers with bills for the festive season and the knowledge that the belt has to be tightened. *
John Geldard farms at Low Foulshaw Farm, a green field site near Kendal. The family moved there in 1988, and building work is a regular occurence.