Case Study - Martin Lowcock, North Yorkshire

Last updated: 10 Feb 2016

Name:Martin Lowcock

Region: NorthYorkshire/Teeside

Farm: Maltby Grange

Size: 364 acres

Background:

Maltby Grange is a mixed farm with 70 acres of permanent pasture with the remainder in arable cropping, temporary grass or voluntary environmental options.

The crop rotation is based around growing high quality feed and providing straw for the–head herd ofSimmental cross breeding suckler cows. Typically the rotation includes temporary grass followed by wheat and beans. Due to the establishment costs of reseeding the temporary grass the rotation has been stretched out to 4 years.

The farm uses a high percentage of red clover in the mixes, this helps get the protein up to around 18% reducing the reliance of bought in protein.

Male cattle aresold through Northallerton mart as stores, heifers are sold as replacement breeding heifers.

Environmental management on the farm

For the first time in almost 20 years that farm is no longer in any form of paid agri-environment scheme. The ELS and Countryside Stewardship Schemes have expired so all environmental management is purely voluntary.

The key thing I have learnt from agri-environment schemes has been the value of hedges not just for improving the environment for birds and wildlife but also my cows and calves. In a late snow storm two years ago I am convinced the hedges saved the young calves. All my hedges are now tall well grown hedges 2-3m tall and wide on a long term cutting cycle.

My plan for the farm is to reduce the average fieldsize to 17 acres ideally dividedby hedges. The problem I have at the moment it that the cost of this is prohibitive and the farm can’t stand it economically following two years of poor cereal crops and now low beef prices. Of course we currently don’t have access to any grant support for this type of work which is expensive on a livestock farm due to the need to double fence.

Other environmental management includes growing 3acres of wild bird seed mixtures. These are proper wild bird mixes with no maize and are there to benefit the local bird population which I am interested in and am learning more about all the time. The mixes also provide cover for the small family shoot which keeps my son enthusiastic about sowing them.

We use a lot of clover in our grass mixes which provides habitat for pollinators alongside our hedges, wild bird seed mixesand beans throughout the year.

We have also dug ponds over the years and have managed our copses for wildlife. I think these all add diversity to the farm.

What measures are you taking towards the sustainable use of resources?

I really believe in providing as much high quality forage as possible from grass and clovers reducing the need for bought in proteins and fertilisers. Running a mixed farm system we value our muck very highly and believe this is improving our soil health.

We are now rainwater harvesting off a new building reducing our water requirements and of course water bills. We also have a 18KW wind turbine.

What other measures might you be looking at in the future to improve both your

Commercial farm business and contribution to the environment?

As mentioned already I want more hedges on the farm and view these as benefiting the business as well as the environment.

Following a recent CFE/NFU farm walk attended by 30 local NFU members to promote the type of work we are doing Fraser our local CFE co-ordinator introduced me to our local RSPB representative.

This came about following a discussion on the importance of farmers demonstrating the positive work they do. I was perhaps critical of the RSPB for the line they sometimes take so Fraser suggested I meet Chris Thompson from the RSPBto discuss how we can work together.

After our initial meeting I am very positive that we can work together. Chris is going to do a bird survey for me next spring which will help me understand how my work to improve the farm is benefiting the environment and hopefully we will be able to record positive change over time.

What are the benefits of working with CFE?

The above illustrates the value of CFE perfectly, bringing farmers and environmental organisations together. I think it is really important to demonstrate what we as farmers do for the environment. Getting recognition rather than criticism will make us all feel enthusiastic about doing more for the environment.

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