Real results 50 profile - Mike Hambly

Name: Mike Hambly

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: Westcott Farm Partnership

Cropping: Winter Wheat, OSR, Winter Oats, Winter Barley and Spring Barley

Farm machinery:

Two main tractors are JD 6170R and JD 6630 premium, 24m mounted Amazone sprayer, plough, Sumo Trio, Simba Unipress, Vaderstad Rapide drill, KRM fertiliser spreader, 8.5m Dalbo Rolls with Avadex/Slug applicator -Combining & Bailing done by contractor.

About the farmer:

Mike grew up on the family farm and after gaining a degree in agriculture at Harper Adams in 1985, he worked in a number of roles within the arable sector before returning to the farm which he now runs with his wife.

He has a wealth of technical industry knowledge, built up from some 21 years working in the supply trade, agronomy, and the grain division of Cornwall Farmers (now part of Countrywide Farmers).

He is a big supporter of NIABTAG and is the technical committee chairman for Cornwall, alongside a number of high profile positions within the arable sector.

Notably in 2014, he became chairman of the NFU’s combinable crops board and South West Regional Crops Board. He was re-elected to the position for another two years in 2016. In March 2017 Mike was also re-elected as Vice Chairman of the European Copa-Cogeca Cereals Working Group for a two-year term and he is Vice Chairman of the European Oilseed Alliance.

Other roles included:

  • AHDB/HGCA Board member for six years
  • Past British Cereal Exports Chairman
  • Founder member and past Chairman Kernow Grain (Storage Co-operative)
  • Vice Chairman West Country Grain Marketing (Co-operative Grain Marketing Group)
  • Helped develop and initiate Cornish Identity Preserved cereals, Cornish Milling Wheat for Ginsters and Cornish Malting Barley for St Austell Brewery


About the farm:

The 200ha farm has been in the family for 200 years and the Hamblys can trace their roots in the area (within five miles) back to the 1600’s. The farm is mostly down to autumn-sown combinable crops, which are block-cropped and used to support the intensive beef finishing enterprise.

The focus is firmly on feed varieties, following  results from last season JB Diego has been dropped after many years as the mainstay variety and has been replaced by Graham across the whole wheat acreage. Crops are grown in a four-year rotation (OSR-WW-oats-barley) and all straw (including OSR) is baled to be used for livestock bedding.

The farm has recently switched from an entirely plough-based establishment system to a 50:50 plough and Sumo Trio. The Trio is used to establish OSR after barley and wheat after OSR, while the plough is used on wheat ground going into oats (to reduce volunteers) and for barley after oats (to reduce brome pressure).

With an average rainfall of around 1,500mm (60”), too much rain is the main constraint to yields on the farm, he says.

Farming philosophy:

When it comes to the farm, Mike’s philosophy is to make the best use of the relatively limited area by maximising output and margins.

Attention to detail across all aspects of the business is key to how he achieves this, whether that is in terms of using the latest crop agronomy, precision GPS applications, or close monitoring of financial performance.

Indeed, Mike is keen to share ideas with other farmers and use the resources available to help improve the profitability of his own business. He is a keen supporter of the AHDB Monitor Farm programme, and is a member of a local cereals discussion group, through which he has been benchmarking costings for the past three years. He also subscribes to the Farm Business Survey costings.

Precision farming is an increasingly important tool for Mike. The farm has been mapped by SOYL, with variable rate P and K used. The sprayer is also fitted with 11-section auto GPS control. Variable nitrogen is not yet used as Mike is not convinced there is a worthwhile benefit on the relatively small fields (average size is just under 4ha). He is however considering variable seeding, but is keen to see proven results elsewhere before using it on the farm.

Hopes for Real Results participation:

Mike has always been a strong supporter of independent trials, as is evidenced by his involvement with NIABTAG, which is one of the main reasons the Real Results initiative appealed.

Septoria control is the greatest disease challenge for wheat on the farm given the high rainfall, so putting products to the test under this high disease pressure is likely to be provide more useful information than plot trials conducted elsewhere in the country.

“For 2018 I want to repeat the challenge set last year of trialling Aviator and Ascra Xpro against our standard T1 & T2 programme based on Adexar to determine if the results from
last year were a one off.”

He also values being able to share information with other farmers in the group.