Society to showcase area's best grassland
By Lyndsay Oxley - Reporter
MORE than 100 delegates from across the UK are preparing to descend on some of the county’s finest grassland farms this summer.
New Moor Farm, near Walworth, which is better known as the home of Archer’s Jersey Ice Cream, has been selected as one of a few to feature in the 2018 British Grassland Society summer meeting from July 1-4.
Visitors to the dairy farm will witness the intensive grazing system which has been practised on the 350 acre site near Darlington for the past five years. They will be shown how the system works as well as being given a tour of the site to see the grass paddocks.
Farmers John and Sue Archer, together with the help of their three children – Tim, Charlie and Jess – believe the grass-based system is key to producing top quality milk which is then used to create the award-winning ice-cream.
The 260-strong herd is made up of a mix of Jerseys and Friesians.
The Archers place huge emphasis on putting their herd on the grass as much as possible.
They believe it helps to create a more natural product.
The grass is left to grow to a specified height which allows the cattle to get the most energy from it. It is measured weekly using a plate meter from which figures are then drawn up on a graph. The aim is to utilise as much per hectare as possible.
Tim, 27, who is a member of the Durham Grassland Society (BGS), said: “We measure all the fields so we can see how much is in at any time and monitor the growth rates.
“We aim to turn the cows out at the start of February. We try to graze the whole farm before April. It helps to stimulate growth.
“The event is about farms that aim to get as much from forage as they can.
“We are honoured to be chosen to take part. It is exciting as we are in transition. We work hard with the grassland side of things in managing our grass.”
The base for this year’s meeting will be the Holiday Inn at Scotch Corner where delegates will arrive and enjoy the BGS annual dinner on Sunday, July 1.
Crathorne Farms, in Yarm, and Skelton Estates, in Saltburn, will be visited on July 2 followed by a gala dinner with guest speaker Ernie Coe.
On Tuesday, July 3, visits will be made to Broom House Farm, in Witton Gilbert, and Newlands Hall, in Frosterley.
A visit to Stainton Hill Farm, in Stainton, that day will also coincide with an informal supper hosted by farmers Andrew and Pam Pounder.
On Wednesday, July 4, the tour will head to Garthorne Farm, in Archdeacon Newton, near Darlington, the home of Acorn Dairy, before concluding at New Moor Farm with a tour by the Archers.
A DGS spokesperson said: “The Durham Grassland Society is very excited to be holding such a prestigious event and to have a platform to showcase what Durham is very proud of producing.
“The event will include visits to seven farms of varying altitudes and terrain, including HLS moorland and lowland dairy.
“There will be the opportunity for an interesting insight into the different challenges faced by these farms.
“With a mix of beef, sheep and dairy farms and both conventional and organic systems, the event is sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in grassland farming,” he added.
Mr Archer added: “As the dairy industry gets more difficult and competitive and driven a lot by cost it is a way to drive our costs down.
“I don’t think they will have seen it done as intensely as we do it but it is becoming more common.
“We graze our calves early and they might not have seen that before,” he added.
“Every farm is different. Durham is a very diverse county with different types of farming. It is a style that suits what we are good at. We have always been good at grazing our grass. It is about pushing that as much as we can.”
For more information or to book a place visit www. britishgrassland.com or call 01270 616464.