Ragley Estate,

Sam Clarke, sheep farmer

Sam farms in North Oxfordshire in partnership with his wife Charlotte. The farming business focusses mainly on sheep and the production of meat and breeding animals. They run a flock of Mules, Suffolk x Mules and Texel x Mules and all ewes are put to Texel rams who are selected according to EBV performance data. All ewes are lambed inside mid-March – end-April to utilise fully the first spring growth of the leys. All ewes are overwintered and tupped on a neighbouring arable farm on various species of cover crops depending on BCS and mob numbers. All the fields grazed during the period from the ewes leaving the lambing shed to lambs finishing are rotationally grazed and leys are specifically designed to maximise lamb growth with the inclusion of species such as clover, ryegrass, chicory and plantain making up the majority of the leys. In autumn 2016 Sam drilled a split field trial; half the field was drilled with a ‘standard’ herbal ley and half with a high performance ryegrass and clover mix. Equal numbers of ewes and lambs will graze each trial and animals will be weighed fortnightly to assess growth and performance of the animals. The thin Cotswold brash soil around where Sam & Charlotte farm lacks organic matter and Sam feels the inclusion of sheep in the arable rotation offers many benefits; increase in soil organic matter, increase in crop yields, better weed control from a longer arable rotation, increased choice of cropping other than fallow in a blackgrass situation, increase in soil biota and microbiology from sheep droppings. Sam is BASIS and FACTS qualified and alongside the farm business runs an independent crop consultancy & farm management business based in the home counties.