Farm boss calls for return of 'Golden Hoof' livestock

Poul Hovesen, director of farming at the Holkham Estate, says more livestock should be grazing on East Anglia's farms

Poul Hovesen, director of farming at the Holkham Estate, says more livestock should be grazing on East Anglia's farms - Credit: Archant / James Beamish

A return to livestock farming in the eastern counties cannot happen quickly enough, said award-winning Norfolk farm manager Poul Hovesen.

The so-called “Golden Hoof” has boosted fertility on a light land farm on the Holkham estate, he told about 35 members and guests of Holt and District Farmers’ Club.

Livestock numbers had been increased with a four-fold rise in cattle numbers to around 1,000 head and more sheep were grazing on Holkham’s farms and low-lying marshes than ever before, said Mr Hovesen, who is the north Norfolk estate’s director of farming.

Commercial beef cattle on the Holkham Estate

Commercial beef cattle on the Holkham Estate - Credit: Chris Hill

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

With more lambs being reared and finished, it has boosted soil fertility and put the land into better heart to grow following arable crops, said Mr Hovesen, who also manages farming on other Norfolk estates including Raynham near Fakenham, Salle near Reepham, and the adjoining Heydon estate.

In the park at Holkham, the massive 1847 memorial to Thomas William Coke includes panels showing the benefits of good husbandry and keeping livestock including sheep, he said.

The so-called “Golden Hoof” of sheep farming was a key means of boosting soil fertility, he added.

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The benefits of bringing store or half-grown lambs from the hills and uplands made sound economic sense for finishing sheep on cover crops on lowland farms, he said.

And the move to bring more livestock in the eastern counties “couldn’t happen quickly enough,” added Mr Hovesen, who is also president of the Aylsham Agricultural Show Association.

He highlighted the vital importance of collecting good data about all farming operations. Within the five large Norfolk businesses in the Catalyst Farming partnership, this approach is used to boost crop productivity and produce environment benefits by optimising the use of key inputs.

In one crop alone, sugar beet, a significant boost to returns had been achieved by collaborating and using performance data, he said.

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

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