Holkham Farming Company Limited, Egmere, Walsingham, Norfolk

True local beef kept well fed by Powermix Pro Express 11

You cannot head to North Norfolk without seeing a sign for Holkham Hall, and this famous eighteenth-century house is still home to Coke family, also better known as the Earls of Leicester. Today, as part of the Holkham Estate, Lord Leicester owns some 25,000 acres surrounding the impressive house.Holkham mixer 1

Much of this area is taken up with the stunning hall’s parkland grounds and a nature reserve. However, 6,500 acres falls under the mantle of Holkham Farming Company Limited, managed by Mark Bowyer. Cropping consists of wheat, barley, sugar beet, carrots, potatoes and parsnips, in addition to both pasture and marshland. Also part of the farming operation is a 500-strong suckler beef herd, kept at two farms in Warham and Wells-next-the-Sea, a distance of around three miles apart.

Making up the suckler herd are 200 breeding heifers, of which 140 are calved in the spring between February and May, and the remaining 60 from August to October. Breeding is mainly Simmental crossed with South Devon, using six stock bulls – three South Devons, two Simmental and one Aberdeen Angus for crossing heifers the first time. All stock is reared on the estate, and the herd has gradually switched from Hereford x Friesians which were inherited by herd manager John Smith in 2002.

With 80 to 90 per cent of stock finished on-farm and sold to a local butcher for marketing, all need regular and accurate feeding to ensure prime weights for this truly local produce. Feeding over the winter falls to a Shelbourne Powermix Pro Express 11, which is now in its fourth season on the farm. Despite the availability of many acres of marsh and regular grassland grazing, stock are kept in for calving and over the winter, with each group of animals requiring slightly varied feed ration mixes.

Once calved, Mr Smith aims to get the heifers and progeny back out as soon as possible to take advantage of the grass available, mainly to reduce input feed costs, although feed is predominantly sourced from the estate’s arable farmland.Holkham mixer 5 (1)

The Shelbourne comes into its own predominantly in the winter months, when it runs the six mile round trip between the two yards to feed store cattle. Hooked up to a John Deere 5820 tractor, the 11 cubic metre single rotor machine replaced an old forage box in 2008 which just could not handle fodder beet and turnips, plus was unable to place feed sideways into troughs of varying heights and widths.

In peak periods the mixer can be loaded four times per day, running full to the Wells site having been loaded at Warham. Mr Smith reckons the machine will handle up to five tonnes of material, and is just right for the unit’s requirements. “The reason we opted to go for the mixer wagon was its versatility in feeding,” says Mr Smith. “It is also easy to manage rations that we feed, and although not massively complicated, they need to be right.”

Main mixes consist of silage and fodder beet with added minerals for breeding heifers and store beasts, with fatteners receiving silage, fodder beet and barley; the latter needed to give a good finish for animals which never generally travel more than about fifteen miles from where they were born during their lifetime.

Mr Smith says the farm did look at other manufacturers of mixer wagons, but chose the Shelbourne as two neighbouring farmers had similar machines, and reports were good enough to prompt the Powermix Pro’s arrival. As well as reliability reported by other farmers, another reason in opting for the Suffolk-built machine was locality of spare parts and service, should they be required.

Despite being at the smaller end of Shelbourne’s extensive mixer wagon range, Mr Smith says that the machine is asked to handle big bale silage and roots, chopping both materials extremely efficiently. The machine has optional extra corner knives included, but these have only required sharpening once per year if being used on drier silage material.Holkham mixer 3

Another area noted for praise is the conveyor fitted to the machine. Capable of shifting left or right, plus elevating in either position, this is said to aid in getting feed right into the varied pen or trough heights at both yards. Apart from a small problem with the webbing on the original conveyor, which was duly replaced without delay, the Powermix has given no problems since reports Mr Bowyer.  

“The mixer is a well-built machine and very manoeuvrable, and Shelbourne basically come and change the gearbox oil every year,” he adds. “It has proved to be a solid, reliable machine which has worked without fail to enable our herd to be fed both efficiently and accurately.”

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