Farmers share best practice at Ancroft

Richard Reed'' is the host farmer at the latest HGCA monitor farm near Ancroft
Richard Reed'' is the host farmer at the latest HGCA monitor farm near Ancroft

Farmers from both sides of the border gathered at Ancroft Village Hall last week for the launch of the latest HGCA monitor farm - Berrington Law, near Ancroft.

For the next three years farmers from Duns to Morpeth will meet regularly at the farm to share best practice, work together to address key business challenges and analyse business performance.

Host monitor farmer Richard Reed and his father farm a mix of owned and contract farmed land totalling 1170ha. They grow winter wheat for biscuit wheat or distilling, oilseed rape, winter barley for malt, feed, and seed, spring barley, and are now trying winter and spring beans.

The 50 visiting farmers had the chance to study Richard’s biomass boiler which he uses for drying all his crops on two 500-tonne drying floors. This burns straw to heat 100KL water, which is then pumped to his grain dryer where two heat exchangers send warm air to an under floor drying set-up

Harry Henderson, HGCA regional manager, said: “Richard has found that the benefits are twofold. Firstly, grain drying is now more cost effective and he is able to cut crops at higher moisture levels than previously possible. Secondly, his barley is no longer exposed to the risk of contamination by diesel fumes. This is especially important as his barley crop goes for malting. 

“At the moment a grain drying system with a biomass boiler of this type is very rare with just a handful of people trying it.”

A second part of the farm tour featured Richard’s tractor fleet, which has an average age of 16 years and is maintained by Richard and his staff.

Harry Henderson: “The group commented on the obvious skill of Richard’s staff and a general discussions on how rare it was to find staff able to turn their hand to any job, from machinery repairs and maintenance to general building work.”

The key topics emerging from small group discussions included: finding staff with good skills and a broad mix of abilities; marketing opportunities and how the markets for different crops, including beans develop; soil compaction, maintaining soil organic matter content, straw incorporation, drainage, tyre choice and tracks.

The next meeting at the monitor farm is on January 15, at Ancroft Village Hall.

For more information or to attend the next meeting, contact HGCA regional manager Harry Henderson, north@hgca.ahdb.org.uk.