Good working relationships benefit farms

LOOKING FORWARD: Simon Orpwood has confidence in future for his three sons

LOOKING FORWARD: Simon Orpwood has confidence in future for his three sons

First published in Farming

NESTLING in the picturesque Mindrum Valley, in north Northumberland, Orpwood Farms comprises two units covering 1,000 acres in total.

The family moved to the Borders from Gloustershire in 1987 and the business has continued to develop as an arable, beef and sheep unit.

Land rises between 400 and 650 feet above sea-level, and Bowmont Hill maintains a flock of 300 Mule ewes crossed with Suffolk rams.

According to Simon Orpwood, lambing in 2014 has been better, as well as easier, compared to the snow and frost of the previous year.

“We had glorious weather throughout March and into April and this helped with lambing, ewe condition and getting the lambs out onto grass pastures,” he said.

“The fields were much drier and the warm temperatures helped early grassgrowing conditions.

“Lambing prolificy was 1.6 lambs per ewe and we aim for lambs to achieve a live weight of 38-40kgs. We supply our lambs to Marks and Spencer; through Scotbeef, and those lambs that remain into the late autumn are sent to Wooler Mart.”

The two farms, Bowmont Hill and neighbouring Morris Hall, at Norham, grow 600 acres of cereals in total. Cropping is mainly wheat, barley and oilseed rape and on occasions, approximately 30 acres of land is contracted-out for potato growing.

Barley and wheat crops are budgeted to average more than three tonnes per acre and OSR at 1.5 tonnes per acre. This year, Simon anticipates good yields owing to the better weather conditions during the spring.

Cultivations and harvesting is undertaken by local experienced contractors with grain being stored at Coastal Grains and on a neighbouring farm.

The Orpwoods also maintain a pedigree herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle. The herd is running at the 80 suckler cow level and numbers may increase slightly.

Simon said: “We aim to keep our best female replacements and continue to buildup the herd. In any given year, we want to maintain a constant replacement policy on numbers and quality.

“Twelve-month-old steers are sent to Guy Lee at Sandystones, Jedburgh, who finishes the cattle for Dovecote Park/Waitrose, and any remaining animals are sold through Hexham Mart.

“We rear a few select young breeding bulls annually and, although we have sent bulls to auction in the past, we tend to sell these animals privately to our regular customers.”

Simon buys his breeding bulls from trusted sources, including James Playfair at nearby Moorbattle Tofts, Yetholm. Having a good working relationship with neighbouring farmers is part of the Orpwood Farms philosophy and this helps maintain the local connection, economy and rural infrastructure.

Since moving to their adopted north Northumberland, Simon and Caroline have brought up three sons, Will and twins Charles and Nick. Will operates a scanning service locally as well as in New Zealand; Charles is an estate agent in London, while Nick is renowned for his equestrian expertise.

Nick is assistant trainer to Lucinda Russell and rode in the 2014 Foxhunters Chase at Aintree, part of the Grand National Festival. He is also the Reserve Amateur Champion point-to-point jockey for the Northern Area.

Simon hopes that in the future, one of his sons will return home to take up the farming business reins.

“We are like hundreds of other farming families and have to look to the future with confidence – we owe it to the next generation,” he said.

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