NSA South East Region Farm Walk
Date: 19th May 2022
Location: Hengherst Farm, Woodchurch, Ashford Kent, TN26 3PN.
Thursday 19th May saw twenty South East Region members in Kent for a farm walk hosted by Ed and Gemma Lovejoy of Hope Farm, Wittersham.
Following an introduction from Ed, shepherd Will Edmonds described the farm’s sheep system in detail, emphasising the importance of it’s “closed flock, vertically integrated” policy to all aspects of the flock’s health and profitability. Stock purchases limited to one or two rams every couple of years means that now few if any precautionary vaccinations are necessary, and wormings, apart from autumn fluke drenching, are minimal. Will is a strong advocate of tupping ewe lambs, using the Southdown ram, not liking to carry “passenger” stock on the farm and finding this improves maternal behaviour in his shearlings. A proportion of the lamb crop is finished, with some retained to supply Gemma’s meat business, but of those not retained for breeding the majority would be sold as stores in the autumn.
The flock of approx. 1000 ewes is in four groups: pedigree Romneys and Dorsets, the latter with a small crossbred group producing specialist carcass lamb, and the major flock of around 890 commercial Romney and crossbred ewes.
The pedigree flocks lamb indoors at the home farm, the Dorsets in October. The main flock is “drift lambed” in one group on a 250 acre tenanted farm that is divided into seven contiguous fields facilitating daily afternoon drifting forward of the unlambed ewes, whilst those with newborns are left behind to be ringed up the following day.
We had a trailer tour around the ewes and lambs in the lambing fields before driving to a grazing block on Romney Marsh to look at some of the older lambs. All grassland is in stewardship agreements that preclude both fertiliser use, apart from FYM, and supplementary feeding.
Grass surplus to grazing requirements is made into hay, mainly in small bales to be retailed directly to horse owners.
The final destination of the afternoon was Ed and Gemma’s own farm, that they had purchased in a semi-derelict state, to view their diversification projects comprising of a livery, camping and camping site plus luxury vintage sleeping wagon, together with an expanding small butchery processing their own lambs and pigs, and soon-to-be introduced farm shop.
The most enjoyable and informative afternoon was topped off with an excellent BBQ provided by our hosts.