THIS MUST BE RUTLAND'S MODEL FARM
From the Stamford Mercury
I.C.I show off Mr. Conant's techniques
PRODUCTION SOARS AT NETHER HAMBLETON
Can the intensive management of grassland on a farm not
equipped for dairying bring increased profit? Most farmers accustomed to
traditional techniques would say No, but those who toured Mr. John Conant's Old
Hall Farm, Nether Hambleton, on Wednesday, must have come away convinced that
the new techniques which he has introduced on a farm where corn is regarded as
a major source of profit, are well worth while.
About 100 farmers and agricultural experts attended the
demonstration arranged by Imperial Chemical Industries, who for the past two
years have been fully costing the farm under their Grassland Management
Records show a tremendous increase in the productivity of
this farm in recent years, and it is largely attributed to the new techniques
in the management of the grass land.
For Instance, the gross output per acre 1952-53 was
given as £24, whereas in 1956-57 it was. £72. Livestock units had
increased from 93 to 194 but labour costs per acre had only gone up from
£4 5s, per acre to £6 6s.
Corn and grass
Mr Conant farms 200 acres of strongish land at Old Hall
Farm and a further 100 acres of lighter land at Lyndon. It is essentially a
corn and grass farm and the policy has been to manage the, grassland
intensively in order to raise sheep and beef.
Until a few years ago, most of the grass was of the
permanent classification, but now the grass fields are nearly all leys of
various ages up to four years. This change has been accompanied by an
intensification of corn growing; increasing the acreage of wheat, using modern
stiff-strawed varieties that make good use of fertilizer and fertilizing them
well; so that yields have substantially increased.
The effect of this policy is reflected in the fact that
the average wheat yield in 1956-57 was 31.9 cwts, per acre as against 25.7
cwts, In 1952-53.Barley increased from 25 cwts. per acre to 37.4 cwts. per
The profitability of the grassland is more problematical
than that of corn. In former years it was managed extensively at low stocking
rates and was not expected to make much contribution to the farm profit.
The present policy aims at higher output per acre of grass
by fertilizer treatment; extending the effective grazing season for sheep and
cattle, partly by the use of special leys and partly by the timing of
nitrogenous fertilizer application; conservation of larger quantities of grass
for silage for cheaper winter keep; increase in stock numbers to make greater
use of the bigger output of grass.
The management is designed to exploit the fact that
grass, whether grazed or conserved. is the cheapest food for ruminant stock,
and the net result of it is to make each acre of grass produce more saleable
livestock without proportionate increase in the amount of bought feed
The density of grass-eating stock on the farm has been
more than doubled in the last five years, but the increase has been in sheep
rather than in cattle.
This is because the profitability of sheep for fat lamb
production is easier to achieve than that of cattle and the capital involved is
turned over more quickly. The capital tied up in the beef enterprise is
considerable and its increase is not regarded as justified until further study
indicates a profitable road to expansion with greater certainty than is at
present the case.
Costings revealed that, so far, the beef enterprise had
not been profitable but last year's figures showed that although the position
improved beef was only just about breaking even.
An Important aspect of the grassland management is the
production of enough silage to provide all the beasts with a full winter
ration. It had been found that the. beasts thrived much more on silage than
other food, and it was the cheapest food that could be obtained.
Mr. Conant was one of the first farmers in Rutland to
take advantage of the Government grant for the erection of silos. In fact his
was the No.1 application for the grant in the county.
The silo is erected on a concrete floor and is designed to
enable self feeding by the stock controlled by electric fence to ensure an even
consumption. In other words, the animals will not be able to eat their way into
the middle thus causing waste.
Pigs and poultry
Besides the corn growing and the sheep and beef
enterprises, there are important pig and poultry projects on the farm.
Last year 292 bacon pigs were sold - the production of 15
sows on the early weaning system - and contributed 24 per cent. of the farm
The I.C.I. Work Study team have recently carried out an
investigation on the farm and their recommendations with regard to pigs should
ultimately lead to the output being increased by at least 80 per cent, with the
minimum of capital expenditure in building reconstruction and no increase in
the labour required to feed and manage the 25 sows and their progeny finished
to bacon weight.
As regards poultry, there are three main enterprises; and
in 1956 they provided 31 per cent. of the farm income. They are: a breeding
flock producing hatching eggs; broiler production, which last year resulted in
6.800 broilers being sold; and turkey rearing.
There are at present 385 Beltsville White turkeys and they
are housed in a building adjoining the silo. It is part of the farm management
policy to make the fullest use of every building and when the turkeys are
killed -which will be very shortly - their accommodation will be available for
Investigation by the I.C.I. Work Study team has led to
recommendations which should ultimately mean an increase in the broiler output
to over 12,000 a :year with no increase in labour requirements.
The regular labour force on the farm is three men,
although at the moment there are four fully employed.
Another feature of the farm policy is the milling and
mixing of all supplementary feeding stuffs.
Harvested cereals are put through a pre-cleaner and stored
and dried in ventilated bins, a total capacity of about 150 tons.
After the visitors had completed their tour of the farm
they listened to a talk by Dr. G. W Cooke, head of the chemistry department of
Rothamsted Experimental Station. He was introduced by Mr D. G. Whitelaw. area
sales manager of I.C.I.'s Agricultural Division, and his subject was
"Profitable Arable Crops".
Dr. Cooke dealt mainly with the subject of manuring arable
crops, . and he emphasised at the outset that one of the objectives of manuring
was to get the fullest possible crop for the lowest possible cost per ton or
per hundred weight. He pointed out that lime was a very necessary thing for
some classes of land if they were to get the most out of the money spent on
fertilizers. If the land was sour, fertilizers could give little or no
The fertilizing business was in itself very simple. There
were only three things to do and they were the right things. Firstly, they must
have the right kind of fertilizer; secondly, they must have the right amount,
and thirdly, they must ensure the right. timing and placing of the
The only way they could find out now much fertilizer they
required was by field experimentation and using the results of field tests over
a number of years.
To emphasise his point that for the maximum return in
relation to the cost of fertilizer only the right amount should be used, Dr.
Cooke quoted figures to show how increased fertilizer dressings did not
increase the crop yield anything like the same .proportions.
He also gave comparative figures to show how modern types
of cereals had a greater potentiality for responding to fertilizers than the
older . varieties. He also dealt with the relative values of nitrogen,
phosphate and potash, and the proportions in which they might be applied for
the best results.
Opening a discussion on Dr. Cooke's talk Mr. J. D.
Laurance, Rutland County Agricultural Officer, said it was extremely easy to
overdo this matter of fertilizing. particularly in these days of compounds.
He felt there was rather a danger in some quarters of
putting a balanced fertilizer on unbalanced soil.
Referring to statistics concerning the average fertilizer
consumption in lbs. per acre in various European countries. he said the figures
for the United Kingdom were given as: Nitrogen 15 ½, phosphate 30,
potash 16. In Rutland the figures were 17, 19 and 19. and in Leicestershire he
believed they were much lower.
The figures for Mr. Conant's farm for both grass and
arable crops were 68. 47 and 23, and for the arable land alone. they were 57,
32 and 54. "This particular farm has helped to bring Rutland's average up. For
the rest of the county it must be considerably lower,". he commented.
Mr. Laurance pointed out, however, that if they were going
to manure for high yields, all other aspects of the farm management must be at
.the same high levels.
Summing up, Mr. Stuart Senior, of the Economics Department
of the School of Agriculture, Nottingham University, said he thought the
capital investment on Mr. Conant's farm had been undertaken very sensibly. He
had resisted the temptation to invest in what might be regarded as luxury
machinery and had invested in profitable livestock and improving his land.
Mr. Senior attached considerable importance to the
keeping of records because they helped the farmer to make wise
Walk round commentary
During the I.C.I. tour of Mr. Conant's Old Hall Farm at
Nether Hambleton, a commentary was given by Mr. A. V. Collins, I.C.I:
agricultural representative for Leicester and Rutland who was also mainly
responsible for organising the demonstration.
Text under the picture
Mr. J. E. M. Conant, whose successful farming methods at
Old Hall Farm, Nether Hambleton, were demonstrated on Wednesday, is seen
(right) with Mr. J. D. Laurance, Rutland Agricultural Officer, and Mr. G. W.
Cooke (centre) head of the. Rothamsted Experimental Station chemistry