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Farm visits around Great Bedwyn

Great Green Bedwny recently organised two fascinating farm visits supported by North Wessex Downs National Landscapes.

The first was to see large-scale egg production on Rudge Farm, Ramsbury and the second was to Warren Farm and The Milk Yard to hear about the Homer family business producing milk for Waitrose across 3 farms and 3000 acres. Despite poor weather, 35 people visited the two farms and the feedback from both visits was excellent.

Ramsbury Airfield Eggs

Peter Wilson started his new high welfare free range forest egg production during Covid. Sited near the solar farm on the old airfield, two linked buildngs house 32,000 birds which produce up to 30,000 eggs per day for Sainsbury’s.

Hens evolved orginally from Red Jungle Fowl, so enjoy a forest habitat. The birds have daily access to 40 acres, some of which is newly planted woodland. However, his second flock of birds had to be kept inside initially because of avian flu and when finally allowed outside many were too timid to venture far.

Inside, the sheds have perches which mimic trees, allowing hens to follow their natural hierarchical roosting behaviour. The feeding, collection, monitoring and packing of the eggs is highly scientific and partly robotic. The farm’s carbon footprint is reduced using Photo Voltaic cells on roofs, locally grown cereals (apart from some soya for protein), re-using chicken manure on the fields and sawdust from the nearby sawmill for bedding. Peter’s hens have a very long lifespan of 85 weeks compared to chickens reared for meat in 40 days.

Homer Farming

On a wet afternoon David, Geoff and Anne Homer welcomed 18 visitors to Warren Farm and The Milk Yard. Their farms produce about five million litres of high welfare milk and dairy products for Waitrose as well as ice cream and direct milk sales.

Each cow produces 20-30 litres of milk per day when lactating. The Homers employ a rigorous ‘regenerative’ approach to preserve & enhance the soil, using cover crops to prevent runoff, precise drilling and avoiding ploughing unless absolutely necessary. Each cow is closely monitored by a ‘fitbit’ anklet which tracks their activity and rumination and indicates when they are ready to get pregnant again. They are indoors for about 3 months of the year.

Nutition is very important and they predominently eat home-grown grass and hay (herbal leys) with supplements. The Homers have pioneered a carefully managed ‘mob grazing’ method where the cows move to new grass daily. Few male calves are born on the farm as the sperm is sex-selected. It takes two years and costs £1000 before a cow starts producing milk. The farms employ 15 people, most of whom are under 30 and have their home provided, so the Homers are helping to house and train future farmers.

Both visits gave us fascinating insights into local food production and how this is achieved by the subtle interplay between land use, agriculture, supporting nature and the rural economy and climate change. Our many thanks to Peter Wilson and to David, Geoff and Anne Homer for welcoming visitors to help them understand sophisticated farming methods that produce high welfare food.

Great Green Bedwyn has arranged two more farm visits in June;

  • 21 June 11-1pm at Pippa & Tom Blanchards’ farm, Wolfhall

  • 25 June at George Hosier’s Wexcombe farm

Contact to reserve a place.


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