craig and ryan baxter shared farmers01/03/21

Craig and Ryan Baxter, Farming Partners on the Rural Estate

It has been a whirlwind start to our share farming enterprise with Nene Park Trust. You will have seen the fruits of our labour out on the Rural Estate, and some of you may also have seen us - the share farming partners, brothers Craig and Ryan Baxter - out shepherding and tending to the flock. We are keen to connect with the people of the local parishes and the general public, and this is an integral part of our joint vision for the future of the farming enterprise. Having emerged from the whirlwind start, we are keen to make a somewhat belated introductory address, to tell the public a little bit about us and our background.

Craig is a graduate of the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, whilst Ryan is an accountant now working in Peterborough. Together we have, over the past seven years, built our first generation beef and sheep enterprise working with local landowners and other charitable organisations; including the Wildlife Trust, to manage restored grassland and some slightly wilder areas of the local landscape.

Our livestock comprise Lleyn and Hebridean sheep, along with native breed cattle including Hereford’s and Aberdeen Angus’.

We grew up in and around Oundle, and have both returned to pursue our shared passion for farming and rural enterprise. We graze around 750 acres of land, substantially all of which falls under the management practices set out in Countryside Stewardship schemes which are designed to look after and improve the environment. Craig is at the helm on the day to day needs, whilst Ryan is involved in the background in support.

The farming system we adopt brings the basic age-old principles of a grass based system where sheep lamb outdoors, together with modern technology and data. This means that electronic records exist for each and every animal, detailing everything from date of birth, through to their health plan, the medicines they have received, the illnesses they have experienced and much more! Harnessing the power of this data generates knowledge that allows the selection of high health breeding lines, which in turn reduces the need for medicines, antibiotics and treatment, by selecting from lines which have not been prone to illness or disease.

We currently farm in the local area, grazing land in Oundle, Kings Cliffe, Yarwell and Old Sulehay, and the partnership with Nene Park Trust sees us come further east onto the Rural Estate, albeit not too far from where we started.

sheep in snow2021 so far...

It’s fair to say that the establishment of our own share farming operation on Nene Park Trust’s Rural Estate, has not been without challenge. From sourcing livestock amidst a global pandemic, to the increasingly familiar challenges of exceptionally wet weather, flooding and snow!

Through careful monitoring of the flooding, we have managed to keep the sheep on dryer ground and safe from the reaches of flood water. However, in a grass based system, snow poses a very obvious challenge – countless days have been spent taking hay to the flock to keep them in reasonable shape as the spring approaches. So, hay made when the sun shone has been very quickly consumed when the snow has fallen!

The rams have been in with the ewes and later this month, the flock will be pregnancy scanned using ultrasound equipment. This will happen on site, and it is with excitement we await the outcome, to see a glimmer of what the Spring on the Rural Estate will bring.