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Angus Gowthorpe, Approach Farm, near Escrick, York.

Farm facts:

· 400 acre (300 arable, 100 forage), plus 100 acres contract arable.

· Cropping on the farm comprises: winter varieties of wheat, barley, rape and spring oats, beans and sometimes linseed.

· 38 pedigree Saler cattle, fed purely on forage. Grazing is split 50:50 permanent grass and temporary herbal leys.

Angus embarked on his regenerative agriculture journey in 2014, when he needed to run the farm viably, without additional labour, improve the soils and with a view to subsidies being ceased. His first step was to reduce cultivations, introduce cover crops and broaden the rotation. Angus knew that soil quality on the farm was deteriorating, despite FYM application, and felt it was time to turn this around.

To start with, he removed any compaction and ensured that the fields were level, and started direct drilling, introduced crop diversity to include more broadleaves in the rotation, with herbal leys and cover crops also. Only enough barley straw for bedding the cattle, is baled, the remaining crops’ straw is chopped and left for the worms to incorporate.

Angus applies foliar N and biological brews; no synthetic fungicides have been used for over two years, and the need for insecticides, plant growth regulators and bagged P and K ended six years ago. The naturally enhanced soil is growing wheat at 10T/Ha on 66kg/ha of applied N, proving that the farm’s soils are among the best in the country for nutrient use efficiency.

Cattle also grow well on the soils at Approach Farm, mob grazing permanent grass and temporary herbal leys without damaging the ground. The grazing season has been extended by nearly two months; with cattle being turned out nearly ten days earlier than previous years and housed up to six weeks later than when set stock grazing. No buffer feeding or creep feeding of the cattle is now required. FYM and green waste compost are applied thinly across the arable rotation, another benefit of this mixed farming system. Mature cow weight is kept under 700kg to minimise soil damage and maximise efficiency, whilst ensuring that top quality “Approach Farm” pedigree bulls and heifers can be sold for breeding, or finished by 16 months of age, at around 420kg/DW at R4L and U3. Angus puts this success partly down to selecting genetic traits for low birth weight and milkiness, along with quality pastures allowing cattle to flourish.

Neighbouring farmers were initially sceptical about Angus’ decisions, but are now becoming interested, as they witness the improvements to the farm and its biodiversity. Beneficial insect populations are at optimum levels, English partridge and skylarks thrive on the farm, a multitude of owl species are supported along with red kites and buzzards.

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