Farming

Livestock, Cropping and Stewardship

Our Livestock

Embleton Mill’s beef farming heritage is an illustrious one. In 1971 George (Seorus) Robertson was the first farmer to apply for the import licence to bring Limousin cattle from France to the UK, after a lengthy and hard fought campaign based on his belief that they were well suited to the Northumbrian climate. Limousins are now the largest beef breed in the UK and Limousin Bulls are still the bull of choice at Embleton Mill. In 1996 Seorus was awarded the Chevalier de l’order de la legion d’honneur by the French government for his contribution to French agriculture, and his contribution to the British agriculture should not be underestimated.

It is Seorus’ son David who now heads up the farm, and his eye for cattle saw many years of topping the local auction mart, regularly winning the Championship at both Belford and Wooler marts. For several years he was one of a small number of English exhibitors at the Marks and Spencer sponsored Scottish National Meat exhibition at The Scottish Winter Fair, believed to be the largest event of its kind in Europe. As well as winning the Reserve Champion there were several placements and class winners, gaining a reputation for quality cattle.

The latest additions to the farm are our completely free range saddle back pigs. These happy hogs will produce a range of Embleton Mill pork in the coming years. The pigs form part of our woodland management plan and are exceptional at clearing pockets of forest floor in order to help improve the biodiversity.

The pigs love a forage, but we also work closely famous Ship Inn at Low Newton by the Sea, and are licensed to feed the pigs the draff which is a byproduct of their brewing. Our plan is that diners at the pub will also be able to enjoy meat from these very happy pigs on the menu, completing this partnership.


Cropping

The crop rotation on the farm has changed many times over the four generations that we have been farming, but has always been centered around soil health, even before regenerative agriculture was “cool”.

Mixed farming systems, where livestock and cereal production work in harmony, have always been the most sustainable way of farming. Soil health is a complex subject but, in simple terms, hangs on two key principles; high levels of organic matter and high levels of biological and fungal activity. These ensure that water and nutrient holding capacity are optimal.

We achieve this by applying manure back to the land, grazing livestock extensively, and having a sustainable mix of cropping.

At Embleton Mill we grow five different crops over 235ha of arable ground and it makes its way into some exceptional products.

Our winter & spring barley is produced on long term contracts for local grain merchant and maltster, Simpsons Malt of Berwick. The winter barley is used in the brewing sector, and the spring barley is sent to The Macallan distillery for its famous single malt whisky. We also grow two wheats which are used in the wheat distilling market or for biscuit production.

Our “break crop” (used to give the soil a break from cereal-based crops) is oilseed rape. This is grown for its uses as cooking oil, livestock feeds & biofuels. We will also have at anyone one time around 10-20ha of arable land in a 5 year grass ley. This, along with our overwinter cover crops, ensures that we are continually building our soil’s organic matter to assist in nutrient holding capacity and carbon capture.


Stewardship

Our ethos on the farm is very much of ensuring that we sustainably preserve and enhance our land for future generations, whilst protecting the very special landscape and biodiversity.

We are involved in the countryside stewardship scheme which is all encompassing. It covers hedge planting, cover strips in fields to produce feed and shelter for birds, pollen and nectar mixes to encourage the vital bees, and pollinators alongside spring cropping for hares and grey partridge to name just a few.

Very excitingly we have just signed up for the government’s newest environmental scheme, ‘The Sustainable Farming Incentive’ and we will work hard to maximise its ecological benefits.

Recycling

Recycling is something that we take very seriously on the farm, anything which we can send for reuse is stored appropriately and then taken for processing. This includes everything from silage wrapping to bale twine. We are continually looking at ways of reducing our energy consumption, and are working with third parties to look at sustainable energy production.

WOODLAND MANAGEMENT

We have a number of shelterbelt woodlands on the farm. These provide a rich habitat for a wealth of bird and animal life and their management is a crucial part of daily life on the farm. These woodlands provide shelter for our cattle, sheep and pigs as well as offering a huge amount of carbon capture. Recently, we have been using the pigs to help clear our woodlands from dense ground vegetation such as brambles and reduce the need for weed control. This helps to create seed beds for natural regeneration.

Sadly, we experienced a devastating loss of trees during Storm Arwen in November 2021, resulting in the loss of entire woodlands and thousands of trees. Work has been underway since that fateful day to clear the fallen trees so that the process of regenerating and replanting these precious woodlands can begin in earnest. Thankfully the loss was not seen across all of the farm’s woods, and so we still have precious woods providing shelter and habitat.


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