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.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Land Of Our Fathers is launched!

Last week we were delighted to be able to invite members of the press, family and friends to the farm to the official launch of the ‘Land of Our Fathers’ DVD programme. This is a project that we have been working on for most of this year having been approached by Alan James who runs a production company called Second Sight Productions in Tiptree. He has been making programmes as Second Sight Productions for over 10 years and has published over 100 titles. He was looking to create a documentary programme about modern farming and wildlife management and we felt that this would give us a terrific platform to show everything that we do on the farm through the course of the working year.

The programme covers the history of Westhorpe with local historian Clive Paine and gives a fascinating insight into the Tudor connections of the village, Westhorpe Hall and how it came to be the home of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Queen of France. We see how the farm came into the ownership of the Barker family, how farming has changed through the ages and even links in with our late Grandfather’s collection of agricultural and domestic bygones. With some of our old photographs, cinefilm and video footage we track the changes in agricultural machinery and farming practices through the generations and finish off by showing the land operations through the course of a year with modern machinery. At every stage we are able to demonstrate our environmental consideration and different measures in place on the farm including Wild Bird Seed and Nectar Flower mixes, pond restoration, creation of species rich grassland and hedgerows and their management. There is also bird ringing demonstration from one of the ringing sessions on the farm so it is a thorough record of everything that has gone on through the course of the year.
Fiming one of the scenes form a couple of angles

It has been great fun and a great experience making the programme and we hope that everyone really enjoys watching it. To buy a copy visit the website - www.secondsightproductions.co.uk/shop/land-of-our-fathers

A morning walk...

A perfect Tawny Owl lookout
After only catching 1 bird in 2 hours ringing this morning due to the strong wind I gave up and took Indie for a walk through our woods just to see what was about instead. Our woods have no public access near them and they are not disturbed very often so there is aways something interesting to see. As soon as I set foot in the wood I knew it would be an interesting walk as I had a 10 second stare off with a Tawny Owl from a regular roost hole.

I walked round for about 40 minutes and this is what I saw - 5x Brown Hares, a Grey Squirrell, 3x Roe Deer, Buzzard, Kestrel, Pheasants, 3x Red Legged Partridge, Robin, Dunnocks, 4x Treecreeper, Blue, Great, Coal, Long-tailed and Marsh Tits, 20+ Yellowhammers, 50+ Linnet, Skylarks, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Herring Gulls, 100+ Pigeons, Jay, Magpie, Rooks and a Crow, at least that is what I can remember as I forgot my notebook.
Hawthorn - A Buffet for Thrushes
It was great to see Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fiedfare feeding on the Blackthorn and Hawthorn with are laden with berries at the moment. The areas of srcub surrounding the woodland are treated as hedgerows and ony cut ever 3/4 years to prevent encroachment on tracks and fields and this approach pays dividends with the amount of berries that are present.
It just goes to show that what is about if you keep you eyes and ears open. It was interesting to see how dry the woodland floor is and there is very little in the way of fungi growing at the moment. PJB 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A learning day...

One of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme options that we signed up for is Educational Access and during the 5 years that we have been in the scheme we have hosted over 100 farm visits. These have ranged from WI groups to Guides and Brownies and history groups to Suffolk Wildlife Trust staff. Today was the turn of Otley College’s Conservation students and we have had a very enjoyable day. With farmland conservation one of our main passions and being such a topical issue at the moment we feel it is very important to show all of the positive work that we do when it comes balancing commercial arable production with effective wildlife management, especially to the potential conservation advisors of the future. With a possible ‘Greening of the Common Agricultural policy’ on the horizon, more money being made available for agri-environment schemes and farmers taking more interest and pride it their farmland wildlife, good advice becomes even more important. It was especially heartening to listen to their good ideas and conservation plans when we set them a farmland advice scenario, coming up with good practical ideas that would fit into with farming practices and benefit target species.

We are starting to fill up next year’s diary now so if anyone would like to book a visit for next year or any further information about our educational visits get in contact at events@ejbarker.co.uk.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fendt 820

Name:  Fendt 820
Driver: Nick Light for the majority of the cultivations; Patrick and I use it during the summer when Nick is on the combine.
Visual Description: This is our largest tractor with the stereotypical four wheels : larger radius wheels at the back and smaller at the front. The wheels have red centres and the majority of the tractor is green with a white roof. The cab sits on top with the exhaust and air intake for the engine running up the corners of the cab.
Size: The Fendt 820 is smaller than the Cat Challenger and it is power rated at 205Hp. It is a good sized tractor for the jobs that we what it to do on the farm as it is flexible, with good weight to power ratio, fuel efficiency, and it is excellent on the road.    

Weight:  This tractor only weighs seven and a half tons but we have to add weight to the front to increase its efficiency when it is working with an implement that it has to lift out of the ground. All tractors need to be balanced when in work, so that every bit of power is transferred through all four wheels when working in four-wheel drive, so that the tractor pulls the implement forward equally. To balance the Fendt when it is ploughing we must have a large one and half ton weight block on the front to counter balance the heavy weight of the plough that stretches a long way out from the back of the tractor. If we did not have the right weight on the front, the front wheels would not touch the floor and we would not have any steering or grip.
Controls: The Fendt has a very sophisticated cab to improve the driving experience and gives the operator lots of flexibility to improve work rate and reduce fuel consumption through its on-board computer. The tractor does not have a gear stick but has a hydrostatic joystick, which means if you push it forward it moves forward and pull it back it slows and then goes into reverse; the more you hold it the faster you go. This means that the drive can range in a step-less or gearless manner from 0km/h to 55km/h. There are lots of dials in the cab that change flows of oil to the implements but what makes this tractor clever is that you can programme the computer to memorise a sequence of jobs; press one button and the tractor will then carry out this set list of jobs: e.g. lift plough up to a set height at a set speed, turn plough over at a set speed and then drop plough into the ground at a set speed, all the while the driver is just turning the tractor around. It also has cruise control, which can be set to the correct speed and the tractor gets to that speed as quickly as possible and then drops off the engine revs so the engine, through its unique design, maintains speed, therefore reducing unnecessary fuel being burnt.   
Cost: This tractor was the first tractor I chose on the farm. I was looking for a tractor that would replace two old ones and do all the jobs of those two it replaced, plus some more. This meant that when we traded them in with the local dealer they took a value for the other two off the asking price. The two old tractors only came to just less than half the value of the new one, due to their age and hours, so to change we had to finance £50,000. It was more expensive than other similar sized tractors of a different brand name but, with the fuel savings, we have seen this extra outlay returned by reduced litre per hours worked.    
Jobs it does on the farm:
This tractor is also doing 500hrs a year and its main work is all the ploughing needed over the farm after harvest. Once this is completed, we have it cultivating the fields in front of the Cat which is pulling the 6m Drill. Once this is completed, it does the snowploughing, if we are called out by the Council, and any trailer work that we do through the spring. Once spring comes, it is used in the cultivations of the spring Oats, Grass and Beans. Then, once harvest arrives, it pulls a large trailer carrying 14 Tons of grain back to the farm from the combine.   BWB

Monday, 21 November 2011

Short Eared Owl Alert!!!

Dear All Westhorpe Residents,

Over the weekend we have had a couple of sightings of a Short Eared Owl around the fields to the north of the village around our grassland. We have been trying to track it down for a photo record (Picture above raided from Google I'm afraid) if you see it please can you let us know, it may have moved on as it will be on migration but hopefully it will be about for a few days. They are a large sized owl in flight and can be seen hunting over rough grass in daylight.

Eyes peeled please!!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Claas Challenger 55

I had a bit of a ticking off from my dear grandmother when I popped in to see her a week or two back. The first ticking off I got was why I hadn’t I seen her for so long and, without giving me a chance to say sorry, I got the second which was that she did not understand some parts of my last story about what had been going down on the farm. My Nana is an avid listener as, without direct access to a computer, my mother or aunt are requested to keep her updated with what has been written about on our Blog.  I do apologise to all and especially Nana for any jargon that I used, if I did not explain some things very well and that the length was a bit long - once I start, I find it hard to find a sensible end point.
So I thought, how could I help everyone understand what each bit of machinery does on the farm, why we use it and how it works?
From time to time on this blog, we add a different bird species as a post, which gives a general profile of what they are all about, so I thought I would do the same for the different machines we use on the farm. Hopefully this will help with the blog updates and also help everyone to understand what the different machines do that you see out of your kitchen or car windows.
I begin with the 3 different work horses on the farm, our tractors, and initially with our big beast:
The Claas CAT pulling the drill

Name:  Claas Challenger 55
Driver: John Leggett and very occasionally myself but it is hard to get John off the seat!

Cat pulling the Subsoiler

Visual Description: Green and White in colour but not a typical-looking tractor as it does not have 4 wheels but two rubber belts known as caterpillar tracks. These increase its so-called footprint, which spreads its considerable weight over more of an area, so it is better for the soil in most conditions as this reduces the chance of soil compaction that leads to reduced crop yield.
Size: Our model is only a little one in today’s sizes, with 280 horses powering the tractor and implement forward – normally referred to as ‘hp’: horse power. Some top of the market tracked tractors have 600+ hp under the bonnet! The engine is very large, loud and thirsty! During a working day, depending on what it is doing, it can burn over 400L of fuel in 10 hours.  

Inside the cab

Controls: In the cab, it has the normal controls of a steering wheel, hydraulic leavers that control the oil flow to the implements attached to the tractor and a gear stick. The gear stick is not a standard ‘H’ as in your manual car but a shuttle shift gear box which means you have a range of 30 gears and to go up or down you just push the stick forward once or back once to change gear. Also in the cab are the electronic controls of the different implements that the tractor pulls.
Cat pulling the Unipress

Cost: We bought this machine a few years back, second hand, and I think it was close to £140,000. This is now half of what a new one would cost. Obviously, it is an important tractor to keep going as it is used at the really busy times of year. We have an agreement with the local dealer to keep it serviced on a contract, so it gets all the care that is needed to make it very reliable.
Cat pulling the SL400
Jobs it does on the farm: Due to its special tracks, it is used to do most of the early primary cultivations like Sub Soiling and pulling the SL400. All the secondary Cultivations, the Unipress and the Toptilth are done with this tractor, as well as all the planting of the different crops using the Vaderstad 6m seed drill. Once the crops are up and growing, this tractor becomes obsolete and has to sit back in the workshop. Over a year, it will normally do about 600hrs of work.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus
Smaller than a House Sparrow and more active, with its tail almost permanently cocked. It has a chestnut brown head and nape (rather than grey), and white cheeks and collar with a contrasting black cheek-spot.
Farmland, parks, and the edges of suburbs where there are large gardens.
Nests are constructed from leaves, stems and roots and lined with moss, hair and feathers. The same nests maybe used for a number of years.
1-3 clutches of 2-7 pale grey eggs with brown marks in April-July.
Plant and animal food, especially seeds. Insects are important during the breeding season.
Basic tchurp note.
The Tree Sparrow is scarcer in the uplands, and the far north and west of the UK. The main populations are now found across the Midlands, southern and eastern England. It is almost absent from the south west, Wales and the north west.
BTO Statistics
Changes in agriculture have greatly reduced the population of Tree Sparrows across much of Britain and as such their status is red. It is thought that the current UK population is just 3% of that if the 1970's.
The female incubates the eggs for 11-14 days and fledging occurs 15-20 days after hatching.
Tree Sparrows mainly forage on the ground or in low bushes. They eat a range of plants, seeds and will feed their young insects in the breeding season.