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An insight into farming over the last year with Andrew Granger & Co’s client tenant at Gaulby Lodge Farm

Tue 23 March 2021

One of the many services Andrew Granger & Co’s professional team provides is estate management.

For a large number of years, the team have been privileged to work as agent to Wyggeston Hospital Estate with their tenants, such as Andrew and Abigail Rees of Gaulby Lodge Farm, Gaulby.

Considering estate visits were unable to take place last year due to Covid-19, Andrew Robinson, BSc (Hons) FRICS MARLA ICIOB Chartered Surveyor, RICS Registered Valuer and Director at Andrew Granger & Co caught up with Andrew and Abigail who have a mixed dairy and arable farm, to see how the last year has been for them.

Andrew Robinson of AG & Co – “I’m very aware of how challenging farming can be, but I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined we’d be dealing with a pandemic too. How has the last year been for you and the farm?”

Andrew and Abigail Rees – “We hosted three separate school visits at the start of lambing last year which we really enjoyed, but they were cut short by the first national Covid lockdown, so we combined our farm work with home schooling three children which, at the time, was quite a novelty and almost enjoyable!  

“We also welcomed two new recruits to the farm; Gill, a local lady, who started to do some milking with us, and Bella our new Blue Merle collie pup.

“Many businesses were adversely affected by the enforced lockdown, and indeed many dairy farmers had to pour milk away for which there was no buyer, but I must be honest and say we have hardly been affected as we have a dedicated contract with Arla to supply Tesco.  Although there are a lot of hoops to jump through to supply Tesco, it has really shown its worth this year. We changed some of our working practices to try and keep our parents, staff, and ourselves safe and have so far managed to avoid anyone around us catching the virus. Having to work from home is nothing new for us, so overall our Covid year has not been too bad at all.”

Andrew Robinson of AG & Co – “I think we also had every weather extreme last year. How has this impacted you?”

Andrew and Abigail Rees – “Going back to last winter (2019-20) being very wet we were incredibly lucky to get most of our winter crops drilled, unlike many in the county, and we were grateful to have completed our new shed extension which gave us more room to keep all our feed and straw under cover. In the spring of 2020, we completed drilling with some spring barley on our ‘new’ land at Carlton and took all of the yard muck out to Carlton as well to try and build some fertility back into the soils.

“Amazingly, after the wet winter, we hit a drought in May and we were a bit worried about the spring sown maize and grass crops for a time but luckily, we got away with it, although grass silage yields for the year were well down overall. 

“Harvest was unsurprisingly average after the wet winter and dry spring yielding about three tonnes/acre of wheat and enough straw to see us through the winter.  We grow an early maturing variety of maize and which was harvested at the end of September which then gave us time to start again and drill all of our winter wheat crops. Once again, we have had a very wet autumn and winter, but our tried and tested plough, power harrow and drill machinery got all our crops drilled before it got too wet. 

“Having another very wet winter we had to bring the sheep inside earlier than we would normally just because the ground is so wet again.  Yet not that long ago we had snow on the ground and had to defrost the parlour after -7 temperatures at night!”

Andrew Robinson of AG & Co – “And if all that wasn’t enough, I should also ask you about Brexit and how you’re finding that is affecting farming?”

Andrew and Abigail Rees – “Brexit was the other big story of 2020 and, in the end, a bit of a non-story, at least so far.  With a dedicated milk contract our milk price was probably not going to be affected anyway, and so far, all other agricultural prices have remained strong through Brexit.  The bigger issue, as I am sure you are all aware, is the changes to agricultural support going forward, and the eventual removal of direct payments by 2028 which obviously is quite a concern, but as a dairy farm, we are not as dependant on the payments as some. 

 “Government has made its intentions quite clear that future payments will be dependent on environmental outcomes, and that people already in environmental schemes will be at the front of the queue for the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) agreements.  So, with that in mind we put in a mid-tier stewardship application last year and the whole of our farm has been accepted onto the scheme for five years.  

 “The first part of the scheme is that we have (or will have) established 4m wide wildlife corridors along most of our hedges, and we will be paid to plant a few acres of winter bird feeding crops each year too.  There is also a small payment for growing a legume crop (like red clover) for silage which uses less fertiliser, so we are growing a field or two of that. 

 “The second part of the scheme is for Capital works and under that we have won a grant to plant 800m of new hedge, plant hedgerow trees, and erect new fencing around the outside of previously arable fields to enable us to reintroduce grass and grazing livestock into the crop rotation.”

Andrew Robinson of AG & Co – “Well, your year sounds nothing short of remarkable given all that you’ve had to deal with. We know how hard you work, and we’re delighted that despite everything the farm continues to sustain you and your family, and you enjoy it.”

Andrew and Abigail Rees – “Thank you very much. Yes, as we work through 2021, we again find ourselves in lockdown, dealing with home schooling, and more challenging weather conditions.

“Overall, we feel very lucky to live and farm here, especially this year, and are always grateful to Wyggestons for supporting us - most recently in extending our farm to include the land at Carlton.  We will always endeavour to farm it in the best way possible and look forward to a time when we can welcome you all to Gaulby Lodge and show you around again.”

Andrew Granger & Co’s professional team can help you with a whole host of property services including estate management, property management, project management, development appraisals, property surveys and valuations, boundary disputes and compulsory purchase. You can find out more at https://www.andrewgranger.co.uk/pages/professional or by calling 0116 242 9933.