Our History

Rookery farm

Our story

 My Grandparents bought the farm in 1957, they worked extremely hard along with their children to build up the farm to just over 400 ha’s with two dairy herds, two beef finishing units one pig finisher unit, and one sow herd. Cropping back then consisted of mainly winter/spring Barley, sugar beet and only a small area of wheat. Waste was not tolerated to much back then so even the beet tops were collected and fed to the dairy cows. After a devastating car accident which caused the passing of my grandfather, the farm was left to Dick and Ted who in turn managed to increase its size to 560 ha’s. The grandchildren then started to come into the farming business so it was decided this would be the right time to split the farm to give future generations an opportunity. The Rookery side of the farm was then 286 ha’s, One low yielding Dairy herd, one beef finishing unit and one sow herd. The beef finishers and sow herd were at Lime Tree Farm and due to the close proximity of the village, ageing pig buildings it was decided the right time to cease pig production via the outgoes scheme. What few useful steel frame sheds were there got moved to the Rookery which started the building and expanding of the dairy herd to try and drive some profitability out of a diminishing industry. The dairy cows were running at maximum potential but our dry springs, lighter soils around the farm yard itself made it difficult to keep enough consistent grazed feed in front of them. This led to a reliance on expensive forage crops which meant we had to change something, it was get bigger or get out. The get bigger would mean huge investment in infrastructure and largely reduce the arable area to hardly anything. This we felt would put all our eggs in one basket and be a huge risk to the business. So, the tough decision was made to end milk production and we managed to sell the herd as a whole in 2011. We ran a small limousin cross suckler herd for a few years before we started the beef finishers for Morrisons in January 2018. The remaining dairy buildings at the front of the farm were now largely redundant so we began exploring other uses to further reduce the risk of the farming business. We all felt it needed to be non-farming income. The self-storage business was born in late 2011 and more recently some business lets have been added, to further reduce our exposure and risk to the increasingly volatile farming income. This does not mean our focus has changed from farming to non-farming activities, far from it, farming is our passion, our heart and our drive but without a strong profitable core business the farm would cease to exist and we would not be farming. 


As of today, our farming business is now predominantly focussed on arable production with the 286 ha’s owned, 120 ha’s on two contract farm agreements and 600 ha’s stubble to stubble straight contract work. The later has helped us reduce our labour and machinery costs/ha further adding another layer of security to our long-term farming plans. It has helped us utilise all of our machinery again as with our managed cultivations system implements like the plough and the grange subsoiler were having low levels of use. Which was bad for their/our cost/ha but it was good for our soil health and our long-term farm philosophy on soils is to create and manage healthy soils which leads to healthy crops, healthy crops lead to better profitability. Our recent move from all deep one pass-till to a managed cultivations strategy which has significantly increased the amount of direct drilling done on farm. We now establish a green catch/cover crop straight behind the combine or baler to help protect the soil surface before the next cash crop is established. This will help capture any unused nutrients which leads onto building and cycling of nutrients in our soils. They also help highlight any areas of compaction so we only have to tackle those areas rather than whole fields. Thanks to on farm trials, we have learnt that the cover needs to be gone by the end of January at the latest. Drilling on the green does not work as well for us in the spring as it does in the winter with our catch crops.

Our soils are mainly sandy clay loams but soil types do vari quite considerably in our local area   sometimes several times within the same field. We are now in year four into our mid-tier scheme which has helped our environmental impact. It helps us make use of awkward field shapes and corners but more significantly it helps create the back bone for our IPM strategy on farm as we believe you have to have a balanced eco system to support healthy crop production. More often than not our yield limiting factor is not nutrients but a regular supply of available moisture to the plants. Which is why our policy now has a rotation of straw chopping, FYM applications and significantly increased the use of catch and cover crops at every available opportunity. 

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