The owner of the farm calls for the return to breeding of the “golden shoe”

11:41 am December 17, 2021

A return to ranching in the Eastern Counties cannot happen quickly enough, said Poul Hovesen, manager of the award-winning Norfolk Farm.

The so-called ‘Golden Hoof’ has boosted the fertility of a light land farm on the Holkham Estate, he said of 35 members and guests of the Holt and District Farmers’ Club.

The herd has quadrupled to around 1,000 head and more sheep are grazing on Holkham’s farms and lowland marshes than ever before, said Mr Hovesen, director of agriculture for the North Norfolk Estate .

Commercial beef cattle on the Holkham estate
– Credit: Chris Hill

Cattle numbers have increased, in part to graze the coastal marshes during the summer months, and the estate has invested in buildings for winter housing.

With more lambs raised and finished, this improved soil fertility and allowed the land to develop after arable crops, said Mr Hovesen, who also manages agriculture on other Norfolk estates, notably Raynham near Fakenham, Salle near Reepham and the Heydon Estate.

In Holkham Park, the imposing 1847 memorial to Thomas William Coke includes signs showing the benefits of good herding and raising cattle, including sheep, he said.

Sheep farming’s so-called “golden shoe” was a key way to improve soil fertility, he added.

The benefits of bringing in reserve or half-reared hill and upland lambs made economic sense for finishing the sheep on cover crops on lowland farms, he said.

And the decision to bring more cattle to the eastern counties “couldn’t have happened quickly enough,” added Hovesen, who is also president of the Aylsham Agricultural Show Association.

He stressed the vital importance of collecting good data on all farming operations. At the Catalyst Farming Partnership’s Big Five Norfolk companies, this approach is used to increase crop productivity and produce environmental benefits by optimizing the use of key inputs.

In a single crop, sugar beet, a significant increase in yields was achieved by collaborating and using performance data, he said.

Mr Hovesen argued that using this data could help transform businesses. He also outlined plans to launch a Catalyst Training Academy, which would also attract potential new entrants to the agriculture industry.

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