Sponsored by: Spaldings

Joe Howard

Little Morton Farm, R.E. Howard & Sons, Nottinghamshire

A period of more than 20 years without livestock from the late 1970s, when Howard Farms focused on high value crops such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes, saw soils deteriorate and yields begin to fall, so Joe Howard’s father Max decided to introduce Aberdeen Angus cattle to the farm in 2003.

Joe took over the livestock enterprise in 2016 and has embraced the mixed farming approach, which includes growing 400 hectares of Chantenay carrots, a trademark product for Howard Farms.

Parsnips, sugar beet and combinable crops are also grown alongside the 320-cow suckler beef enterprise.

In 2013, temporary grass, legume crops and mixed species herbal leys were introduced to build organic matter, improve soil structure and biology and provide a break crop.

Hoe aims to grow the carrots on a one in 12-year rotation so rents in extra carrot land to achieve this. He typically grows a four-year herbal grass ley then alternates between cereals and break crops.

He estimates the livestock and grass within the rotation increase cereal yields by up to 0.5t/ha.

The herbal leys contain about one-third ryegrass, one-third clovers and one-third species such as chicory, plantains and trefoils. Without a doubt, the deep rooting chicories help soil structure and deeper depth, he says.

Although Joe would like to go to no till, large scale growing of carrots and the soil preparation this requires means it is not possible but a wide and diverse rotation, including livestock, deliver benefits for soil health.

Safeguarding his farming future will come down to achieving a lower cost of production and scale is a large part of that, he believes.

Too that end, Howard Farms also runs a contract farming operation, currently farming about 1,000 hectares across Nottingham and South Yorkshire for farming clients.

A joint venture was set up in 2014 forming Lundie Farming to develop a new grass-based 600 cow dairy unit near Dundee.