Paul Coates

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Over the years Paul Coates has developed and grown a mixed farming enterprise and since purchasing the farm in 1984, the family has been trying to improve soil health.

Six years ago, the traditional ploughing system was replaced with minimum tillage to help improve soil structure across 202 hectares (500 acres) of arable and grassland at Barrockend Farm and a further 146ha (360 acres) of nearby rented land.

Paul is the first to admit reducing cultivation was not an overnight success and he has learned to rethink plans, seek expert advice and keep learning about different methods.

Paul is a big believer in regulating how much muck is applied, adopting a ‘little and often’ approach.

The farm’s 40-cow Beef Shorthorn suckler herd graze outside all year round and are rotated around the farm alongside a flock of 600 North of England Mules and white-faced ewes.

Paul, who farms with his father, his wife Julie and their two sons, 19-yearold James and 15-year-old Daniel – has improved the genetics of the suckler herd to produce a more efficient cow which is hardier and has a higher
health status.

Paul has also introduced high genetic rams and adopted a prevention rather than cure approach, which includes utilising vaccinations and reducing antibiotic usage.

The lambs are all sold deadweight into Woodheads Bros abattoir, which provides detailed killing out information which is used to make improvements, drive efficiencies, reduce costs and the farm’s carbon footprint.

As well as the suckler and sheep enterprise, 350 dairy beef cattle are also housed on the farm as part of the Morrisons Elite Beef Scheme.

Paul monitors and analyses data every six weeks to increase productivity and lower the carbon footprint through tweaks, such as adjusting rations to increase and or decrease specific levels of protein.

To improve biodiversity, 4ha (nine acres) of wild bird cover and wildflowers have been planted, as well as 12,000 metres of hedgerows in total over the past 20 years. An effort to rebuild and preserve dry stone walls
on the farm has also been undertaken, with large numbers of small mammals and insects finding homes within the walls.

With a challenging location, during the summer months the steep hillside fields are prone to drought meaning the grass can burn off very quickly. Paul has adapted his land management to reduce the impact of this by utilising herbal leys with mixed swards to support the water holding capacity of the land and minimise the effects of droughts and heavy rainfall.