The Estate farms around 690 acres (280 ha), an all grassland sheep farm and lets 4 farms: a mixed dairy and 3 traditional beef and sheep farms. The Estate Farm, based at Nether Laggan but spread over three separate units, comprises of a closed flock sheep enterprise of Easycare ewes kept outside all year round, utilising 642 acres of Permanent Grassland and 111 acres of Rough Hill. Our principle aim is to produce prime lamb for supermarkets and the butchery trade, with a proportion of lamb sold on to other farms to finish, due to an inadequate grass growing season.
We aim to utilise the grassland to provide the majority of the feed requirements of the flock, only providing extra feed as we approach lambing time in March. Hay and silage is produced in the productive summer months to provide fodder in the winter.
We run a flock of around 900 Easycare wool shedding ewes & 250 ewe hogs (last year’s ewe lambs kept as replacement for breeding). We have a closed flock to maintain a low incidence of disease, buying in only Tups (Rams) of known health status. Around 500 ewes are crossed with Suffolk Tups to produce prime lambs, with the other 400 bred pure to provide the ewe lamb replacements for future years. We are using the wool shedding Easycare bread as they are hardy, productive, requiring less intervention and have fewer health problems.
The cost of removing wool from sheep is greater than the income generated from wool sales, while the problems associated with wool are greater than the benefits to the ewe. We are farm assured and aim to prevent and mitigate health problems using a health plan drawn up with the local vet practice, rather than treat animals routinely as they become ill.
With the sheep kept outside all year round, we do not produce much in the way of muck and slurry and rely on the use of lime to maintain pH levels in the field and stop them becoming too acidic. This helps the natural productivity of grass and clover on which we base the sheep flock. Fertilisers are only used to replace nutrients lost when we cut fields for hay / silage or excessive rain has leached lime and nutrients out of the soil.
We maintain the farm not only for the benefit of our flock and profits but also for landscape aesthetics and other environmental benefits. Water courses are fenced off to prevent silt run off, a number of woods have been planted within the farms, using native broadleaf and mixed broadleaf/conifer trees, linked by hedges and fenced water margins, along with new ponds and rough areas, making a linked mosaic of habitats of benefit to a wide variety of species. There are also areas of grazing closed to livestock during the bird breeding season, as well as areas planted with seed crops for overwintering wild bird populations.
Around 1.6 kilometres of new hedges have been planted and over 2 kilometres of dykes (stone walls) rebuilt, along with the continued maintenance of around 4 kilometres of established hedges and 16 kilometres of dykes.