Craig and Ryan Baxter, Share Farming Partners on the Rural Estate

Since our last blog, the Share Farming Partnership and Nene Park’s Rural Estate have been alive with activity as we navigate through our first year in partnership. 

First stage renovations have been completed at Castor Barn. This had sadly been vandalised and fallen into disrepair in recent years, but has been brought back to its former life as an agricultural building, and is now in daily use in the Share Farming Partnership. 

The lambs born in the spring are thriving – a reasonable amount of rain throughout the season has seen the grass grow well, giving the lambs and their mums plenty to eat. Of course, mild and humid weather does pose another challenge for sheep – maggots. This is where blow flies lay eggs in the fleeces of sheep, which then hatch into maggot larvae that feed on the skin of the sheep. Being out and around the sheep every day has allowed us to identify any cases at an early stage, at which point the best thing to do is often to shear the sheep, removing any maggots from the skin and reducing the risk of a repeat as there is no wool into which eggs could be laid. Once the sheep are shorn, usually in July, this problem all but disappears. 

In other news, the newly established herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle are out grazing on Tumuli field alongside the river. Ruby Red Devon’s are a native breed originating from the West Country – they have a docile temperament, are renowned for their foraging ability and the premium Ruby Red Beef they produce. This breed is therefore well suited to our extensive, grass based system. The offspring will be slow grown at grass, and we hope will provide local produce of fantastic quality which will be available through Lakeside Farm Shop in due course. The cattle have been sourced from pedigree farms in Huntingdon, Worcester and Devon and the addition of Admiral, the Ruby Red Bull, should see calves being born on the Rural Estate from mid-April 2022. 

July is also haymaking season across the Rural Estate, an important part of environmental land management. This land provides food and shelter for wildlife during the spring and early summer, and when the hay is made it returns wildflower seed to the meadows to maintain bio-diversity. Working with Nene Park Trust, we are planning for hay from ground richer in wildflowers to be transported to other sites before being manually re-spread to give greater wildflower reach and cover. 

Finally, we are delighted to be taking part #Farm24, the 24 hours in farming campaign, which celebrates British farming and offers a valuable insight into where and how food is produced and the huge variety of roles and responsibilities taken on by farmers as food producers and custodians of the countryside. This will see Lucy Thornton-Reid, Nene Park's fundraising officer, join us on the farm to roll up her sleeves and experience a day in the life of a farmer. Lucy will be releasing snips of her day through Nene Park’s social media channels as part of this initiative, so do keep an eye out for Lucy getting in and amongst the cows and sheep out on the Rural Estate.