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May 12, 2017 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Estate spring farming news

Horse chestnuts in flower

Field of wheat, approx 20 weeks since planting

Potatoes planted here in April will soon begin to show & be harvested after 24 weeks, in August

As one of the core businesses of the Apley Estate is farming, it’s time I felt it was time I shared our spring farming news:

Beef cattle

The majority of the cows in the Apley Estate’s herd are Limousin and Hereford crosses (this means a Holstein dairy cow, crossed with a Limousin or Hereford bull), the calves are sired by British Blue and Limousin bulls. This year we calved approx. 185 calves & thankfully it’s all gone very smoothly. They go to market aged 13-14 months. Our farm staff will vaccinate the calves for pneumonia in the autumn.

Cereal crops

This year we have planted 750 acres of wheat, 160 acres barley, 150 acres winter oil-seed rape, 200 acres of naked oats (they don’t have a husk (kernel) on the seed). These crops get sprayed once in the Autumn for weeds, in the spring for disease and broad leaf weeds & again in the summer for disease.  These wheat, oats & barley take about 11 months, planted in Sept Oct & harvested in August.  The oil-seed rape is planted in August & harvested the following August.  Just to be clear (these farming terms aren’t always as clear to non-farming people as they are to farmers!) spring barley means it’s planted in the spring & harvested in August/Sept.  Winter oil-seed rape means it’s planted in the Autumn & it’s in the ground over the winter.  Our grain is sold through various grain merchants & from there, goes to approx. 30 different outlets.  We make use of all our own straw. We feed oat & barley straw to the cattle to eat in the winter, but the wheat straw is used for bedding.

Potatoes

Potatoes in this field (you can’t see them yet!) were planted in early April. They take 24 weeks to grow before they’re ready to harvest, usually in August, after which they’re sold to McCain’s for chips. They’re farmed by a contractor who rents the land from the Apley Estate. Potatoes can’t be planted in the autumn as they’d get killed off by the winter frosts.

Irrigation

In a dry year, sometimes potatoes need irrigating – which is only possible if the pipes are in place in or near that field. In some years, hundreds of gallons of water are required per acre, which doesn’t necessarily push up the price of the potatoes on the wholesale market or in the supermarkets. But it does always mean the farmer’s costs are higher.  To give you an idea, the equivalent of 1 inch of rain (same whatever the crop) is 22,000 gallons of water per acre.

Sheep

The local sheep farmer who rents our Apley Estate fields in the winter (for good lowland grazing) now either sends his sheep to hillsides (where you get poorer quality grazing, which is utilised best by sheep) or to market.  The lambs get sent to market aged 4-5 months up to 12 months. Most lambing takes place in April, but some sheep farmers as early as Christmas time.

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