About Us

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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Kes


Falco tinnunculus
Kestrels have pointed wings and a long tail. There are marked differences between the sexes, with males being smaller but more colourful (grey head, red-brown back and grey tail with black tip) than the females whose plumage is a more uniform speckled brown.
Size
34-39cm
Weight
156-252g
Habitat
Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats, from moor and heath, to farmland and urban areas. They are a common sight near motorways and other major roads. They are seen throughout the UK, bar the Orkney and Shetland islands.

Nest
The 'nest' is a very informal affair; simply a lining of sticks or straw added to a hole in a tree, a deserted nest built by another species or a ledge.
Eggs
4-5 brown-white eggs in April-July
Food
Urban and suburban kestrels mainly feed on small birds but will also take mice. Country Kestrels feast on rodents, large insects and earthworms.
Voice
Shrill kee-kee-kee call
BTO Statistics
Kestrels are amber rated partly due to a loss of traditional farmland habitats. They have however, readily adapted to city living.


Breeding
Both parents provide food for their young. The female incubates the eggs for 27-29 days and fledging is 27-32 days after hatching.
Feeding
Kestrels search for prey from high vantage points such as tree perches or wires.





Tuesday, 9 August 2011

July on the Farm



Barn Owl Hunting

There was a great start to July with a Red Kite being spotted over the farm and village on the 1st, 2nd and 9th of the month. There has been a red kite spotted a number of times recently and it is probably a young bird, hatched last year being chased away from existing territories by established pairs. It may be that it is scouting potential breeding sites for next year? On the 6th I ringed a single Barn Owl chick in one of the owl boxes on the farm. To only have 1 chick from a brood of at least 3 is a little disappointing but fingers crossed that it will fledge. There have been barn owl sightings through the whole month in and around the village so hopefully the chick is getting enough food. On the 11th the Buddleia by the weighbridge burst into flower providing a great nectar source for butterflies and bees and 12 Red Admirals were counted along with Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Large White. On the 10th at Great Ashfield a suspected breeding Spotted Flycatcher was seen in the farmyard and for a number of days after carrying food back to a clump of Ivy. Whilst out walking on the 11th there was Yellowhammers singing every 30/40 metres along every hedge on the farm hopefully indicating many pairs breeding successfully. We will have a better idea of how they are doing when we start ringing in the winter and can see how many young birds are present. We also had our last farm visit on the 11th and had Swifts Swallows and House Martins over us as we travelled through the village and a hedgehog scuttled across the road as I returned home that night. On the 14th Brian’s dog Flo, found a Little Owl’s nest in the workshop and by the end of the month the two chicks had fledged.
  
Purple Hairstreak

  The Suffolk branch of Butterfly conservation visied the farm on the 19th and had a very successful day searching for and recording butterflies. They were able to record 19 different species with the highlight being Purple Hairstreak. I had already recorded Brimstone and Orange-tip which are spring species, so we are up to 21 species for the year which we are delighted with.

Keith Aldous reported a Peregrine Falcon in Westhorpe on the 20th and Mike Shave has seen a clutch of Grey Partridge chicks a number of times. The Turtle Doves have been much quieter this month, hopefully due to them concentrating of bringing up their young but we will keep any eye out for any young birds.  As the harvest progresses we open up more of the cropped land and usually from our machines get a good view of what is being pushed out of the crops. There was 5 foxes (1 adult & 4 cubs), a Roe deer and fawn and 2 muntjac in the Oil Seed Rape next to West Farm, 2 foxes, and a muntjac next to the hall and another couple of fox cubs nest to the farmyard. There has been hundreds of young pheasants in the rape and wheat fields and a number of young French Partridges as well. One of the benefits of our Environmental Stewardship Options and habitat work is that there is always cover on the farm after the crops are combined. Areas of wild bird seed mix, grass margins, large hedges and scrub give these young birds a place to hide from predators rather than other farms where the crops are their only refuge. It always amazes me how many smaller birds feed in the Oil Seed Rape fields even when they have been sprayed off there a Blackbirds, Dunnock, Whitethroat, Robins and Reed Bunting feeding on the insects and spiders in the crop. Another busy month on the farm and on the wildlife front. As harvest progresses there will be much more to report for August so keep reading!

Pyramid Orchid on Westhorpe Village Green

On a wet day Brian and I took the opportunity to walk over the village greens and were able to record over 40 species of grasses and wildflowers and we will leave the green for as long as possible before taking a hay cut to allow as many seed to shed as possible. The hay cut is an essential process in the management of wild flower meadows as the removal of the grasses allows and second flush of wild flowers and prevents the grasses becoming too dominant year on year which, in time will smother out the wild flower species.
PJB  
 

Harvest Secrets


 Harvest Secrets
So what happens behind the scenes of a farm at harvest?
You may have been out and about in the countryside and heard the murmur of the combine in the nearby field, seen tractor and trailers brimming-full roaring up the village then bouncing back empty again for another load as the combine’s warning light starts to flash. All these sights people see from their car windows, homes and while out on the evening walk but what really is going on?
This is a day in the life of me during the wheat harvest:
6.40am – ‘Nellie the Elephant’ by the Toy Dolls jumps into action on my phone next to my ear and a sleepy-eyed zombie climbs out of bed (actually a couple of snooze buttons later).
7.12am – Me, one dog and lunch box are en route to the farm; wave at the dog walker and same cyclist as I do every morning on the same stretch of road.
7.30am – All are on deck at the farm, John and Nick are busy getting machinery ready for the day’s big push.
 John will be out with the big-tracked tractor either Mole draining; Sub soiling, if the soil structure in the fields requires it; or using our new cultivator to pulling down the stubbles and prepare them for next year’s drilling. Fuel will be filled up: the tractor takes about 500L a day to run; the cultivators need greasing and wearing points need to be checked; radiator and air filters need to be blown out so that the tractor runs as efficiently as possible.
Clean down from day before
Nick will be busy going through all the daily checks on the combine. More fuel: another 800L a day is fed into this thirsty monster! Belts, chains and sensors need checking; grease points need to be lubricated; windows and mirrors need to be de-dusted and cleaned; the whole combine will be blown down with the air compressor to clear flammable dust and debris from the day before. This is done as a matter of course as the engine is running so hot that dry dust and straw can easily combust if it builds up on or around the engine, starting a fire.
I will be planning the day ahead: which fields, where the tons of wheat need to go in store, how much we did yesterday, where the different varieties are in store and at what moisture they have come in at. I will be checking tyres on the trailers and filling the tractors with fuel. Yes, more fuel – less in the small tractors. The Fendt requires about 250L a week, as it is much more efficient and good on the road. A lot of planning would have been done in advance of harvest.  I have a idea of which fields need to be cleared early so that rape can be drilled in good time; I know which fields had a black grass problem so I need them stubble-raked to see if we can make the weed seed germinate on the surface prior to the main cultivations.
10.30am – The day will be warming up by now and the preparation would be finishing up, John would be out on the fields already and would be set for the day, returning at the end or if required by us on the combine. Nick would have a bite to eat before we stick the combine in the field and get going.
The moisture at this time will hopefully be around 16%. We have a hand-held moisture meter and the combine has one on board, so we double check before getting into top gear. We aim to harvest wheat at below 15%. This is the magic number for us as it can go straight in the shed and will store ok as long as we suck the temperature out of the heap with our set of stirrers and air suckers. If it is over 15% we have to dry the grain by using hot air blown through special holed sections set into the floor of our grain store. This is obviously more expensive, so we aim to let the sun do its work in the field, as the combine will still cover the ground quickly if we wait for an extra hour.
11.30am till late – Sun is shining and the moisture is dropping down to around 15.5% and the combine has now done 3 rounds of the field edge (called the field’s Headlands) and these are slow and fiddly. As the field is opened up, the grain starts to come in thick and fast. The Combine has a 30ft header on it and it can combine up to 55-60 tonnes of wheat an hour depending on the standard of crop. I will be carting away from the combine, taking two tank-fulls per load back to store. As the combine takes the crop in the front and thrashes out the grain, the on-board computer is recording weight, speed, area etc and is constantly telling Nick how it is running. The tank fills and when the tank is 70% full, an alarm sounds and the warning light on the outside starts to flash. This is the signal to me to get into position with the trailer so that there is enough of a straight run up the field to unload on the move. If I’m not in the right position, we both have to stop and unload stationary, which means less area is covered and time is wasted. A unload can take about 150 metres and that means 150m x 9m width = 0.135ha more ground covered. You can do 400 Tonnes in a good day: about 30 trailer loads.  If you stop for all of them, you will waste time and combine about 4ha less! Keep the combine moving – that is the key to a speedy harvest. Nick and I have worked out a good system of hand signals and gestures so we know when to unload, Pat helps out sometimes and has his own system!
As I take a load back to the farm, Nick carries on his merry way, opening up large block work as he works over the field to make sure the full width is always being taking in at all times. The combine has a special magic eye on the front that helps the driver keep the header full. This magic eye uses infrared beams to indentify the edge of the crop and so it steers the combine remotely to follow the uncut crop. Nick just needs to watch out for telegraph poles and obstacles and he can then spend more time getting the internal setting more efficient, so that the grain sample is cleaner and we harvest more. 
I would be getting back to the farm. If I was unsure of the moisture, I would stop and take a reading by scooping some off the top and putting it in our moisture meter that is calibrated to weigh the grain to a certain level so it calculates the moisture content. Then, if it was the right moisture, I would unload in the correct place by backing the large trailer into the shed and opening the remote hydraulic tail gate. Tip it up, mind the roof, shut the tailgate and pull out of the shed. Depending on the field we are combining, I may have enough time to use the loader to push up the heap of new grain into the corner or up on to the main heap. If I am tight on time, Dad would be back at the farm doing the loader work in store. Sometimes we run two trailers when the field is further away from the farm and this gives us enough time to push up our load, as the pressure to get back to the field is less.
This process continues until it starts to get late. Normally the moisture will stay below 15% through until about 7pm, depending on the weather. You have to start to watch out for the moisture creeping up as the dew comes in, this will mean that the grain will need to be put on the drying floor and also the dew will affect the efficiency of the combine thrashing the grain out of the straw.
Loading at night
Any time from 10.00pm – 1.00am (occasionally), we will start to pack up. The last load will be brought home and stood up in the barn to be sorted in the morning. The tractors are all locked up and the combine returns to the workshop. The large 30ft header has to be unhitched off the front of the combine so that we can get the combine through gateways and barn doors. The header usually comes home with the combine to the safety of the barn.
Three weary-eyed zombies walk through the yard, closing doors and locking up before heading back for a shower and bed. Then, if it is dry the next morning, we do it all again! Harvest is a busy and tiring time of year but a very satisfying one as it is the culmination of a year’s work. BWB

Friday, 5 August 2011

Fields start to clear and we get this.......Please keep eyes open!

Yesterday we had another group of illegal hare coursers using our poor hares as targets for there dogs and we have actually had hares being killed. They just pull up and turf the dog out and watch. It has been a problem over the last year in Mid Suffolk when the crops are low and the hares can be seen from the road. Each time we have seen them we have had to call the Police which is the correct thing to do.

I have asked Suffolk Police what is the correct protocol that we, the general public, should follow if we ever witness illegal hare coursing. This is the information that I was given:

All Hare Coursing with dogs is illegal under The Hunting Act 2004 and anyone convicted of the offence can be fined up to £5,000 by a Magistrates’ Court. The Police have the power to impound and crush vehicles used by the offenders if the vehicle is on, or has been used to trespass over, private property.

If you ever witness any criminal act taking place, not just hare coursing, you should dial 999 immediately!!! (Use the local Police number 01473 613500 when reporting anything that has already happened e.g. a property break-in, or for giving information on a previous or other incident) Hare coursing is now regarded as high priority and so blue lights will be used. The sooner you call, the sooner the Police can arrive on the scene.

When you call the Police any information you can give them will help. The location where you witnessed the event, vehicle registration, make and model, number of offenders, description of offender e.g. White male, mid 30’s, brown hair, wearing blue jeans and green jacket, number of dogs, if there are any firearms etc.

For you own safety PLEASE DO NOT APPROACH THEM the offenders usually do know they are breaking the law.The last thing the Police want is any confrontation between you and offenders and in some incidences arguments and damage to property have occurred when people take it upon themselves to approach them.Usually, once the offenders realize that they have been spotted, they make a sharp exit before the Police arrive. So please observe from a safe distance and keep Police informed if they move on and in which direction they have gone.

If you know the land owner then please make them aware of the situation so that they can help. They can keep an eye out around the countryside and pass on information through the Farm Watch Network.

We thank you for your help and information you may provide about any rural crime or suspicious activity. Together with assistance from Suffolk Police we can work to keeping Suffolk and our local villages as safe as possible. BWB

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Sorry for lack of updates!

Yes as you may have seen harvest is in full swing! We have hit the wheats and they are very ripe and the sun has dried them to below 14% moisture so we can fill the barn as quick as possible to keep the quality which is good. Yields are as expected and down by about 10-15% but we still had crops going at our target yield of 10T/Ha average which is pleasing. Must fly another trailer ahs arrived and I need to push it up in the barn. BWB