Guy Prudom

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Together with his parents, Guy Prudom rents three farms totalling about 324 hectares (800 acres) of predominantly upland pastures.

Guy runs about 230 suckler cows and 65 replacement heifers, using Stabiliser bulls on the cows and Angus bulls on the heifers. The herd is spring calving and replacement heifers are sourced on-farm.

Calves are weaned at about 200 days old, at an average weaning weight of around 285kg, and put on a home-grown ration consisting of crimped grains, wholecropped beans and grass silage. Finishing cattle are weighed monthly, sold deadweight to either Dunbia or Dovecote.

When the latter units were taken on, the family began the transition to an organic farming system, which they stayed with until around 2016 when  they lost a 48.5ha (120-acre) all-grass tenancy, and the decision was made to return to conventional agriculture, although lessons learned from being organic are still used.

On the arable front, the decision was made to move away from min (max) till and rotational ploughing to strip tillage. The family has been crimping cereals for nearly 20 years, which has brought the harvest date forward by up to three weeks. Another advantage has been the amount of weed seeds collected in the grain tank and removed off the field.

Wholecropping beans has been another major bonus. Everything is removed from the field, weeds and all.

Autumn-sown cover crops in front of spring cropping has been undertaken since 2007. Cover crop mixture has evolved into a 75 per cent black oat, 20 per cent mustard and 5 per cent stubble turnip mix.

As an experiment, a winter forage rye was direct drilled into wheat stubble for a winter cover crop. This was wholecropped at the end of April 2023 and provided a useful amount of forage.

Soil testing has been integral for more than 15 years and is carried out on a four-year rotation across the whole farm.

The family has used bio-stimulants since their organic days - Atlantic Gold, a seaweed extract, on the beans at emergence and full flowering, has proved particularly successful.

Electric fencing about a metre from the hedges and stone walls has helped create the perfect space for wildflowers, insects and mammals.

The farm is six years into the strip till, Mzuri system, and soil organic levels are now pushing 4 per cent across most fields. The soil improvements mean cover crops can now be established by just using the rear coulter bar,  saving soil damage, diesel and time.

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.

David Shelton

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Anyone who dismisses David Shelton as yet another wealthy businessman who has bought-up land has not heard his agricultural backstory.

He maybe the man who set up, floated and then sold car retail giant Motorpoint, but he is also a fourthgeneration farmer.

After studying agriculture at Harper Adams University, he had every intention of following in his father’s footsteps on the family’s traditional 81-hectare (200-acre) mixed farm in Nottinghamshire. But, with the farm becoming less viable, David had to look away from the farm which saw him venturing to Saudi Arabia, to set up the franchise for John Deere, with satellite workshops, spares and sales to provide and service the machinery
needed to make farming in this part of the world possible.

When the contract with John Deere came to an end, he returned to the UK and moved into property and the car industry. Running alongside was the development of his own farm, keeping Longhorns and acquiring land to total 1,072ha (2,650 acres).

It is run on mixed farming principles, just a larger scale than the Sheltons had previously practiced, including 900-head of finishing beef, 230,000 chickens, 2,000 B&B pigs along with arable consisting of a mixture of crops and a solar field.

David joined the Morrisons Net Zero programme in 2021, which includes measuring the farm’s carbon footprint and looking towards reducing the level of emissions overall, while improving the sequestration and environmental credentials.

David is also very conscious of the need to improve his soil health and has put a focus on farming regeneratively. He uses cover cropping and herbal leys to improve his silage.

The beef enterprise markets cattle deadweight into Woodhead Bros. David invested in roundhouse cattle buildings with a handling system. The investment has allowed for cattle to be finished in an environment with clean air, reducing pneumonia and allowing for safer handling.

The pig enterprise, which was entered into in 2022, produces manure which is used on the arable land, reducing the level of bought-in nitrogen inputs.

The arable enterprise is at the heart of the circular farming system David has created, maximising the outputs from farming livestock to improve the soil through high organic matter inputs from manure.

Recently, David has entered into a joint aquaponics venture, involving brown trout kept in tanks in polytunnels and the water being used to water salad and vegetable crops growing below.

On winning, David said

“It’s unbelievable to be standing here tonight with this trophy in my hand. I’m utterly chuffed to bits. We all have a duty to protect the countryside especially with the current challenges within climate change. British agriculture can do so much to help achieve bigger and more positive goals in tackling climate change.”

What the Judges said

David Shelton’s business is a truly mixed enterprise with strategic thinking and decision making as its core. A Harper Adams graduate who left the agricultural sector to work as a car dealer before returning in 2012 with capital to invest in his true passion, he has since built up a profitable business which spreads risk by operating across several sectors in livestock – beef, pigs and poultry and arable.

Collecting and measuring data is central to his success, with David not opposed to trying new things but analysing the outcomes meticulously. The use of technology, including solar panels to power a new grain store and dryer; vertical farming using dirty water from brown trout production to feed salad crops; use of software such as Cattle Manager and John Deere Data Manager to record and interpret data; and management practices such as controlled traffic farming to minimise soil disturbance, shows David takes a holistic approach to sustainability. While each part of his business is very different, sustainability is a key theme which runs throughout. He is in the top 10 per cent of Morrisons producers producing beef with the lowest carbon footprint and sees net zero as an achievable target through the scale and set up of his sizeable operation.

The judges said David will be a good ambassador for the British Farming Awards and believe he will use the platform to talk to other farmers and offer valuable advice and encouragement, whatever stage they are at on their farming journey.

Martin, Juliette and Matt Lines

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Martin Lines farms in partnership with his wife Juliet and son Matthew to grow mainly winter cereals on their family farm, managing some contract farm agreements and renting additional land to bring farm area up to 540 hectares (1,334 acres).

For more than 10 years, Martin’s farm was in the old Countryside Stewardship Scheme to try to improve the natural habitat for wildlife on-farm and restore hedges which had previously been removed. He established grass strips alongsidehedges, ditches and field boundaries, which has resulted in a significant increase in wildlife.

The soil is chalky boulder clay at 65 per cent clay content and grows a wide rotation of wheat, winter barley, spring barley, beans, oats and OSR.

Martin, who is chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, uses soil sampling for nitrogen, hand held tissue analysis, lab analysis and biomass imagery from satellites to reduce the use of fertilisers.

Insecticides are no longer used and there are flower margins every 90 or 120 metres across large fields and around the outside of small fields. GPS is used for placement of inputs and inflation tyre technology is used in all
machinery, with further investment in tracks to minimise soil damage.

Chicken manure has been used to improve soil and replace artificial fertiliser, along with cover cropping and direct drilling. Martin has brought in sheep to graze cover crops in winter, adding fertility and biology into the
soil. His cover crop mixes include buckwheat, phacelia, sunflower, vetch, linseed, fodder radish and crimson clover. They work to benefit the soil health, produce and grow nutrients, harvest the sunlight and turn it into
organic material to help increase the soil’s organic content.

About nine years ago, Martin decided to see what he could to control pests without insecticides and monitor the impact on yields and profit margins. As a result, he has broadened the range of crops he grows, with no fixed rotation – tailoring cropping in each field to help with weed pressure and soil health.

Pest-resistant varieties are used where possible and there has been a return to more traditional cropping intervals – with five or six years between OSR crops.

Cereals are drilled after mid October if weather allows, rather than September, to reduce black-grass and autumn aphid pressure.

Avoiding over-feeding crops with fertiliser in one application prevents rapid growth and makes the crop more resistant to pests and disease.

Overall, crop yields are a little lower, but this is more than made up for by the reduction in costs of production and the net margins are up.

What the Judges said

Martin Lines lives and breathes sustainability with a particular focus on nature and biodiversity recovery. He formed the Nature Friendly Farming Network with a view to shining a light on the positive role farming can play in restoring and boosting the environment and helping other farmers do the same. Stressing he is accountable to the supply chain and consumers, he believes the changes he has brought in since taking over from his father has made the business more resilient, highlighting weather shocks. He hosts school visits and speaks to different groups and societies three to four times a month to communicate and share best practice, inform, inspire and engage with people from non-farming backgrounds. He has also hosted policymakers to see how farming with nature at its heart can be done profitably. Judges said Martin’s standard of sustainable arable farming was exemplar and not only was a great benefit to the natural world but also shored up his business for future generations.