Richard Cockroft

Occupation

Farmer.

Address

Bowsden Hall Farm, Bowsden, Lowick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 2TN.

Cropping

Winter wheat, oats, spring barley, OSR, rye, peas.

About the farmers

Richard and Stephen are brothers who grew up on a family farm in Yorkshire, where their father still farms. They both moved to Northumberland last year, taking on two farms around four miles apart.

After studying agriculture at Newcastle University, Richard returned to the family farm in Yorkshire and is now responsible for all arable operations across both Northumberland farms, totalling around 537 ha.

Stephen studied Rural Land Management at the Royal Agricultural College and spent nine years practicing as a land agent in Somerset, then in Cumbria and North Yorkshire. He is a member of the RICS and a fellow of the CAAV and now manages the commercial flock of NZ Romneys and Highlanders, which are crossed to a Primera and the pedigree herd of Beef Shorthorn cattle.

About the farm

Bowsden Hall is nearly an all arable farm, whereas Felkington is a mixed farm that has historically supported high numbers of livestock in addition to the arable enterprise.

The farms have a range of soil types, predominantly medium loams of good depth with some area of “stronger land”.

Cropping is all cereals, growing HEAR oil seed rape, two-row feed barley and predominantly Group 3 & 4 soft wheat varieties. The farm also grows vining peas for the local group which offers an excellent break crop.

Farming philosophy

Being new to the two Northumberland farms, they are keen not to rush in and understand it will take time to get to know the farm and what works best.
They are open to using technology and other resources available to help achieve this, notably having mapped all soil for P, K, magnesium, pH and organic matter as a starting point last autumn. They plan to use variable seed rates and yield mapping next season and already use variable P&K applications.

The brothers have divided their roles according to individual strengths, with Richard focusing on the arable operations. He maintains a flexible approach to crop establishment, the plough, minimum tillage and, rapid lift systems depending on soil type, cropping and field conditions. He is “on the ball” when it comes to disease control and everyone takes active involvement in the day-to-day running of the farms.

The brothers are clear that the farms must be viable in their own right and yield maximisation and cost reduction are key to achieving this.

Cultivation and drilling approach

The farm is in a ‘conversion’ phase where the objective is to move toward direct drilling. A recent purchase of a RapidLift on front of the Vaderstad Rapide is part of an investment into improving soil structure to allow this. A Carrier and Simba SL are used to only move as much soil as necessary but, with Richard being relatively new to the farm identifying areas where remedial cultivations are required is still work in progress.

Rotation

There is no set rotation but, where soil type will allow, the two winter wheats will precede vining peas which will be followed by winter wheat and OSR. On heavier ground vining peas are substituted for oats as a break and, on soil where second wheat is marginal, rye is being grown as a farm scale trial to check its economic viability.

Biggest agronomic challenges

Their biggest agronomic challenges are weather and tight field operation windows, which will always be a challenge. The loss of CTL and future Septoria protection is a concern given the farms location. Brome control is becoming a challenge and slug control has led the farm to purchase a straw rake to culturally control slug egg numbers.

What do they most value about Real Results?

YEN allows every detail of agronomic input to be looked at which means that it is thought provoking and, allows you to meet other growers to discuss alternative approaches.