Summer Meeting

Summer Meeting

The 2018 BGS Summer Meeting will be in County Durham, with the main accommodation at Holiday Inn, Scotch Corner, 1st - 4th July.

Durham - a county of contrasts

The base for the meeting will be the Holiday Inn at Scotch Corner. Convening on the afternoon of Sunday, July 1, registration will begin at 4.00pm and we’ll ask members and local society representatives to join us after registration for the AGM. There will be an informal evening meal in the hotel on July 1.

Monday, July 2

The title of the meeting will be strongly in evidence today as we visit two very contrasting farm enterprises and locations. With our first farm we’ll briefly leave county Durham and head to North Yorkshire and Crathorne Farms where the Dugdale family run a 480-cow autumn block-calving dairy herd. Maximising the use of grazed grass, regular plate metering and recording show that utilisation in 2017 was over 13t dry matter (DM)/ha. Milk yield is around 6300 litres/cow, with just over 4000 litres from forage. Silage making has moved from a two-three cut system to taking four to five leafier cuts. Silage is fed from late September to mid-March, with the cows being housed full-time from early November. In order to facilitate herd expansion they have recently constructed an outside feed pad next to the cubicle sheds, with rubber matting for cow comfort in winter feeding.

Moving on and back towards our home county, we’ll be visiting Skelton estates, where manager John Aynsley runs a herd of Stabiliser beef cattle on grassland with an ongoing improvement programme as well as sheep on lower land. We’ll see both parts of this enterprise and hear about the ongoing reseeding and soil management programme which is looking to improve returns from grass.

Returning to Scotch Corner, we’ll have chance to relax and change for the BGS annual dinner.

Tuesday, July 3

Our first two visits are beef and sheep farms, each presenting very different challenges. We’ll head first to Broomhouse Farm at Witton Gilbert just north of Durham, where Mark Gray manages an organic beef and sheep enterprise of 2000 ewes, 500 ewe lambs and 200 Angus cows on land running up to 225m (750ft). Altitude is not the only challenge here, a good part of the farm’s acreage being permanent pasture reclaimed from opencast mining. The more productive land is managed to optimise production from forage, with grass/red clover leys rotated with forage crop production. Leys are ploughed out after four years, with forage rape being sown for winter grazing, then reseeded in the spring with an oat/pea mix undersown with red clover. First cut from the grass/red clover silage leys is normally late May or early June but Mark notes that second cut is often better for the ewes as there is more red clover later in the year.

Heading a little south, we move to Newlands Hall Farm where John Oulton has a mixture of lower land managed more intensively and upland, much of which is in stewardship agreements. John buys in batches of weaned Hereford calves, grown on at the farm utilising grazing as far as possible before a short finishing period at a farm in Yorkshire.  Fed in winter on silage and brewers’ grains, they are grazed in age groups from spring with calf weights monitored to record progress. Feeding is adjusted according to silage quality. The lower land is in a five-year arable rotation before being put into grass. Leys will have white and/or red clover in the mix. The upland pastures have some improvement but are primarily permanent pasture. Mostly sheep land, John keeps around 100 ewes, plus tack sheep in winter. 

Leaving Newlands Hall Farm, we will take a slightly scenic route over Bollihope Moor where John Emmerson and son William run a hill flock as part of their beef and sheep enterprise. The situation is unusual as the moorland is owned by a middle-eastern family and used a grouse shoot, with John owning grazing rights and managing the land under Higher Level Stewardship. Good levels of agreement are needed by all! We will pause on the moor and hear from John about the operation and its logistics before heading down the other side to Stainton Hill Farm, home of Andrew and Pam Pounder and family.

A finalist in the 2017 BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year competition, Andrew’s all year-round calving dairy herd achieves a high yield of 9245 litres/cow with a concentrate use of less than 0.22kg/litre. Around 50% of yield is achieved from forage, with a focus on grazing and quality silage. Impressive figures in themselves, they are all the more so given the altitude of the farm. Attention is paid to nutrient management with regular soil testing. Off-land is reseeded in a two-year rotation, in part with wholecrop wheat, the grazing being primarily used for youngstock.

We’ll remain at Stainton Hill for the evening, being joined by the alternative tour delegates for an informal farm supper.  

Wednesday, July 4

Our final day in county Durham takes in two dairy farms which offer food for thought on business development and diversification. Our day will begin at Garthorne Farm in Archdeacon Newton, where the Tweddle family run an organic dairy enterprise. Originally a herd of 300 cows on 300 acres (121ha), the herd was reduced to 200 in 2000 on converting to organic production.  Acquiring Hall Farm in 2015, the herd,  currently 350 cows, is being  expanded  to 500. Leys at the new farm, which is in its final year of conversion, are sown with herbal mixtures (red clover, grass, herb species) which will be used for silage. All-year calving, the herd yields around 6500 litres/cow from 1.25t concentrates. Level production is important as the output is solely directed to the family dairy company, Acorn Dairy.

Moving just around the corner, our final visit of the meeting is New Moor Farm, home of Tim and John Archer and family. The 275-cow dairy herd is primarily spring-calving, with around 50 cows currently autumn-calved. The plan on this 142ha (350ac) unit is to move the whole herd to spring calving and expand numbers d to 350. Very much a grass-based management, Tim aims to turn out soon after spring calving, housing from the start of December, conditions permitting. Tim has been focusing on quality youngstock grazing, with calves turned out at four months and concentrates gradually removed. They move to fresh grass every day and receive six litres of milk until they are weaned at 90kg for the Jerseys and 100kg for the crossbreeds.

Milk from the Jersey cows is used for the enjoyable diversification enterprise at New Moor – ice cream, sold both from a parlour on-farm that is popular with day-trippers and in outlets around the region. Naturally, it was sampled in the course of planning the BGS tour, but you can taste for yourself! We’ll be joined by the alternative tour delegates for lunch before we depart for Scotch Corner and home.

The alternative tour will take in local highlights such as Durham city, Crook Hall, Raby Castle, Bowes Museum, High Force waterfall, Thornton Hall Gardens and more. Please find a printable itinerary for the alternative tour here.

For booking and further details - Go to our Summer Meeting listing in the events calendar

Misc Publications
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BGS Summer Meeting 2018 Booking Form


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