Farming & Conservation
We are actively farming 2500 acres of land, our farming includes arable crops such as wheat, barley, oilseed rape as well as some root crops such as potatoes and fodder beet. We also have a suckler herd of 300 cows, our breeds are continental crosses including Simmental, Limousin and Charolais. Our cattle predominately graze in the 500 acres of Apley Park, the Park has been laid to grass since time immemorial. We have an Estate plan dating back to the early 17th Century which confirms it being grassland. 7
The grassland is older traditional varieties rather than modern Ryegrass, therefore, benefiting us with a more diverse range of grassland and other wildflower species. Our cattle graze extensively which means they have larger areas to graze and can roam around to find the grass that is most palatable to them, allowing our cattle to feed outside the grass for a large proportion of the ear is much better for their overall health and wellbeing. When we bring the cattle in they are housed in purpose-built buildings, one was built in 2004 and is designed to allow air to circulate freely which has significant health benefits and it is divided into a number of pens, which allows as many cattle as possible to get to the feed areas. The other building was built as part of the model farm at Apley Home Farm as cattle housing in 1875 and we still able to use it for this purpose today, an excellent example of sustainability, the embedded carbon from the construction of the building has had almost 150 years to be absorbed.
We have an integrated farming system using the manure produced by our cattle as organic fertiliser for our arable crops, additionally, we use chicken manure produced by our free-range egg unit as an organic fertiliser. by using home produce organic fertiliser in this way we can minimise the use of inorganic fertilisers. We use very modern and sophisticated farm machinery which has satellite guidance and tracking, this means that working with our specialist agronomists we can further reduce the use of agricultural chemicals targeting relevant areas instead of blanket treating the whole field. We are actively seeking ways to improve the technology available to further restrict the quantity of chemicals applied to our land.
The health and quality of soils at Apley is of paramount concern to us. Soil contains countless species that make up a unique, complex and vitally important ecosystem. We use minimal tillage cultivation methods to avoid damaging the soil structure and have a programme for testing our soils for nutrient content and to monitor the structure. Our aim is to continuously improve soil structure which has benefits for organisms that live in the soil as well as plants that grow in the soil. Our large scale machinery means that we can reach large areas of our fields in single passes which also helps us to maintain soil quality by reducing compaction.
Our soils are largely free-draining sandy soils and we try to ensure that we do not leave uncultivated or bare areas over winter as this reduces agricultural drain off. We have a series of buffer strips along most of our watercourses o prevent runoff from our fields ensuring that the rivers and watercourses across the Estate are in good environmental condition. Where we are growing spring crops we use stubble turnips or vetches as winter cover crops. A percentage of our crops are used to feed our own livestock.
Our Farming team comprises of four employees with well over 100 years of combined experience of agriculture, they have a very high level of understanding of our land and how best to manage it and are adaptable and receptive to innovative new ideas and working practices. We work with organisations such as AHDB to look for innovation in our arable cropping and to test new crops on our land.
Apley are in the process of creating a sustainable farming policy alongside production and sustainability reports using our regenerative ambitions and sustainability benchmarks covering all of our farming business areas such as production and yields, energy and water usage, soil health, social activity, natural non farmed areas, agro chemical use and animal welfare. We are committed to our farming objectives of limiting soil disturbance, cover crops, long and complex crop rotations, intercropping, and animal grazing.