A small investment has saved both time and money for Lake District
beef and sheep farmer Martyn Mawson who farms in a high rainfall
and a catchment sensitive area only half a mile above Bassenthwaite
Martyn his wife Deborah and his parents Standish and Alison have
350 acres of inside land at High Side Farm at the foot of Skiddaw,
with 100 rented acres and freehold rights on Bassenthwaite Common.
Winter accommodation from the end of October to the first week
in May for Limousin cross and threequarter suckler cows is in slatted
sheds and there is plenty of underground tank capacity to collect
However, the yard at one end of the buildings which is next to
the silage clamp produces dirty water in the winter which has been
collected in an underground tank for about 20 years.
“An open gully crosses the other end of the farm steading
and runs directly into the lake so we have to be extremely careful
to collect everything,” said Martyn.
“We had to physically empty the tank and there was always
the potential that if it rained heavily during the night that it
might overflow. The tank has a capacity of 5,000 gallons and it
would take an hour to empty it. Under normal rainfall it would
take four days to fill up – but in torrential rain that could
only be 12 hours. We get around 68 inches of rainfall a year.”
Martyn was at a meeting where he saw a system to pump the dirty
water from the tank when the level was activated by a float when
he realised that would solve the problem.
The pumping system which was installed at High Farm by Aspatria
Farmers pipes the dirty water about 400 metres up the fell (100
metres above the farm) where it filters down over gravel in wavy
pipes and into the ground.
There are no watercourses nearby and the Environment Agency was
happy to approve it. The pump takes off the top three feet of water
in the tank. A travelling irrigator would not have been possible
because of the gradient.
“It’s so simple, and for minimal cost, but it works!"
“It’s so simple, and for minimal cost, but it works!
It gives peace of mind as it is failsafe and it saves time in keeping
the level right,” said Martyn.
“It was £3,000 well-spent. We received £900
in grant from the NWDA-funded Farming Connect Cumbria which I heard
about around the same time as seeing the pumping system. It was
put in in January 2006 and is producing real cost savings in labour,
diesel and wear and tear on machinery,” he added.
The only disadvantages are that occasionally the filter on the
pump can block with grass from short silage so it is checked regularly
as well as any sludge removed. The pipe can freeze if it is frosty
so it is simply turned off.
But a further advantage is that the water can be diverted into
the tanks under the slatted buildings and in the slurry lagoon
to dilute the muck for easier spreading.
The suckler herd is predominantly winter calving and is fed silage
and minerals while calves receive a concentrate blend.
All herd replacements are home bred to minimise disease risks
and to be more self sufficient. Calves are sold at 10 to 12 months
old at Carlisle and Wigton marts.
Some of the farm’s Swaledale flock is bred pure and the
remainder are crossed with home-bred Bluefaced Leicesters.
To help the farm’s cash-flow, a proportion of the North
of England Mule ewes are now retained and a flock of 200 Mules
and Texel crosses plus hoggs produce an earlier prime lamb crop
from July through to January with the Texel cross hoggs being put
to the Charollais.
Martyn and Deborah have capitalised on the traditional features
of their farmhouse which dates back to 1668 and through tasteful
modernisation created three letting bedrooms with guest sitting
and dining rooms in a self-contained annex which attracts visitors
from across the UK – and the world.
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