Real results 50 profile - Tom Bradshaw

Name: Tom Bradshaw

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: W Bradshaw & Son

Cropping: Winter wheat (mostly group 2s), winter (feed) and spring (malting) barley, spring oats, winter and spring beans, linseed and sugar beet.

Farm machinery:

Tractors include Fendt 939, Case Puma 240 x 2, 6,000-litre trailed Horsh sprayer (also does liquid fertilizer), cross-slot drill, various sub-soilers, two tracked Case IH 9230 combines.

About the farmer:

Tom is the fourth generation of a farming family that moved to the Colchester area of Essex in 1938 and has always wanted to forge a career in agriculture.

After being educated at Colchester Royal Grammar School he went on to gain a degree in agricultural business management at Wye College in Kent. He gained experience working on different farms, including a six-month spell in New Zealand, before returning to the family farm in 2004.

Tom is a 2011 Nuffield Scholar with a keen interest in soil health and fertility. He also featured on the BBC Harvest programme in 2013, sits on the NFU Crops Board, and has been involved with Recommended List trials.

Tom is keen to share his experience and learn from others, which is largely achieved through his involvement as an AHDB Monitor Farm which began in 2014.

About the farm:

Since buying Fletchers Farm in 1952 the Bradshaw family has built up a strong business from its base near Colchester. Originally a dairy and arable farm, cropping now dominates. They have been involved with contracting since 2001 when a neighbouring arable farm came up for tender and have expanded the business ever since.

Apart from a small area of owned land (totalling some 160 acres), most of the 1,300 ha is farmed under contracting arrangements across a wide range of soil types from sandy loam to heavy Essex clay within a 20-mile radius. Tom works alongside his father and three full-time employees (two on the arable business and one on equestrian).

The rotation includes a good mix of spring and winter crops, cover crops, and a small area of sugar beet. All wheat is down to Group 2 varieties for harvest 2017, while spring malting barley also features.

Tom is a keen advocate of minimum tillage to improve soil health, but insists it is vital to remain flexible and adapt cultivations according to conditions. For example, deeper subsoiling and rotational mole ploughing are both still used where necessary.

Farming philosophy:

Tom is very clear on his philosophy, which is to “sustainably increase business profits through maximising efficiency and appropriateness of all inputs and through managing soil fertility.”

Soil health and precision farming therefore play a big part in this overall strategy and he is constantly looking at ways to tailor everything he does (such as variety choice, inputs, cultivations, etc.) to individual field situations and soil types. Block cropping is not something that fits with his philosophy.

Tom is open to change and trying new ideas – some of which he acknowledges have been necessitated by the black-grass burden on some farms in the area.

“Flexibility is key to future success in everything we do, whether that’s rotation, varieties, drilling dates or cultivations,” he says.

Hopes for Real Results participation:

Tom sees the Real Results project as a good way of obtaining realistic trial results information that can help inform future agronomy decisions on the farm.

He believes results will be much more representative of the farm conditions than replicated plot trials conducted elsewhere and should provide a good idea of what works/ doesn’t work on the farm.

“It’s almost a natural extension of our Monitor Farms programme,” he says.

Tom is also looking forward to learning from the other 49 growers involved in the project.