Law Farming covers more than 1800 ha on the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Essex borders and we are based at Thrift Farm in Royston. The farmland is partly owned, part rented with the remainder contract farmed.
We grow arable crops on most of the land. Cereals, sugar beet, forage rape, peas, spring mustard, and stubble turnips cover 1,350 ha. The turnips are grown as a catch crop on which we graze sheep.
As the farm has grown, we decided to move to block cropping to simplify our storage and field operations. Many of our crops are grown for seed or are processed or milled locally.
We are constantly improving the fertility of our soil by growing a wide rotation of crops, keeping a flock of 1,800 breeding sheep and grazing a suckler herd at key times of the year. As well our own livestock manure, we spread compost, digestate from food waste and sewage cake across the land.
We are very proud of the Site of Special Scientific Interest on our land. Therfield Heath is a large tract of species-rich chalk grassland. We keep a flock of Dorset ewes specifically to graze the heath.
We are as passionate about protecting and enhancing the environment as we are about farming.
Since 1997 we have actively embraced Countryside Stewardship Schemes (CSS). We carefully graze chalk grassland slopes, we restore hedgerows and sow pollinator and farmland bird crops.
We have made great strides to roll out CSS across as many areas of the farm as possible.
Our soils are predominantly light, free draining, chalky loams with some outlying clay knolls and areas of sand running through the lower lying land.
Most crops are grown to supply local markets. Our milling rye, oats, soft milling wheat and all of the winter barley is sold to Jordans Ryvita. The crops produced for Jordans Ryvita are grown under their protocols including the LEAF Marque Standard. The standards stipulate that a minimum of 10% of productive land is sown to provide habitats for mammals, invertebrates, insects and ground-nesting birds.
Peas and brassicas including Hobson forage rape and Spring Mustard are grown for seed along with four varieties of rye and a small area of winter wheat. Sugar beet is grown successfully across all the farms and is delivered to the British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
We have adopted precision farming techniques, including RTK & GPS automatic steering systems and variable rate application of nutrients. As Law Farming has grown, our policy has been to move to block cropping to simplify storage and field operations. No central storage, marketing groups or pools are used and no grain is sold off the combine.
The farm supports 1,800 ewes which we lamb in early January. Their cycles are synchronised with sponges and the ewes are injected with PMSG to lamb in a four-week window.
The ewes and lambs are turned out to stubble turnips at four weeks old. The lambs are creep fed until they reach the desired weight and grade which our shepherd still decides by eye and hand.
From late May to November when the ewes are dry, they graze the adjoining Therfield Heath which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Other times of the year they graze permanent grass around the farms. Suffolk rams are used to produce a mixed balance of finished lamb carcasses.
As average annual rainfall is only 600mm, we have few problems with the health of the flocks’ feet. Lambs need to be finished quickly in the summer before pasture dries out and drought sets in. Routine worming has been replaced by dung sampling in an effort to reduce the risk of resistance to the active ingredients in the products used.
Store lamb production
Each autumn, depending on the availability of feed and number of our own lambs remaining on the farm, up to 3,000 store lambs are brought onto the farm and finished on catch crops of stubble turnips sown after winter cereals and before spring cereals and sugar beet. The majority of lambs are sold between February and April. The remaining lambs are fed concentrates ad lib.
We supply a local butcher’s shop with lamb throughout the year. The remainder goes to abattoirs in East Anglia and the South-West or to live markets near Kettering.
Following an absence of over 15 years, a 50 strong suckler herd has once again become part of our enterprises here at Law Farming.
With large areas of low-quality grass entered in Countryside Stewardship Schemes on our own and surrounding neighbours farms, we selected the Salers breed of cattle for their hardy nature and ability to survive on poor forage with little supplement feeding.
Salers originate in Cantal in the Massif Central region of France. They are a large breed, with females often weighing over 700 kg and standing up to 1.40m tall. They have a thick mahogany red or black coat.
Originally bred for work as well as meat and milk production, this was considered a dual-purpose cow, although now better known for its fertility, ease of calving, its maternal instincts and ability to provide large quantities of milk for their calves.
We plan to produce store cattle ready for market fed only on grass and stubble turnips. This slower process of producing calves with a diverse diet of spices rich grasses and fodder crops should provide for a high quality and lean composition carcass.
Conservation and habitat creation have been core policies at Law Farming for the past 30 years.
We have planted more than 30 km of hedges and allocated areas for wild bird food, wildflower and grass margins. We have built ponds and beetle banks. We have left fields fallow and undersown spring cereals and stubbles overwintered for ground-nesting birds.
Parkland, hedges and ditches have been maintained and archaeological features fenced off.
Since 1997 our arable and grassland has been in government schemes administered by Natural England.
Therfield Heath (SSSI) is a fine example of undisturbed chalk grassland in East Anglia which supports rare grasses and flowers, butterflies and insects. It adjoins Thrift Farm and the farm benefits from grazing rights (stints) on the Heath.
Natural England part-funded the costs of suitable sheep, equipment and day to day shepherding. Grazing continues throughout the part of the year the sheep do not have lambs at foot.
The rare plants and insects are dependent on short grass produced by regular sheep and rabbit grazing. They would disappear if management by sheep were discontinued and more undesirable species would take over.
Since 2002 we have carried out extensive work to restore existing woodlands. Entering the English Woodland Grant Scheme has enabled essential management to be carried out, namely thinning, coppicing and replanting.
In addition, we have planted some 26 ha of new woodland under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. Blocks of new woodland are sited adjacent to existing woodlands on marginal areas and infield corners.
In Autumn 2013, we purchased 12 ha of mature woodland adjoining Thrift Farm and Therfield Heath (SSSI). Work began early 2015 to restore Fordham’s Wood and Jubilee Wood. This started with the creation of permissive public access paths and the installation of interpretation boards.
Throughout the year, Law Farming is delighted to host a wide variety of groups interested in our farms and environmental work. We use the Black Barn for introductory talks and refreshments. Therfield Heath, the Thrift woodlands and various other habitats are within walking distance.
Law Farming hosts numerous school groups with insightful visits that can bring a curriculum to life. We believe it is important to give children an introduction to how and where their food is grown.
Our visits give pupils the opportunity to learn about the lifecycles and seasons that determine crop and food production. We also hope students gain an understanding of the importance of farming in the maintenance of the landscape and environment. During a visit, pupils can look at soil profiles, take farm walks, identify trees and invertebrates, view machinery and take a close up look at the sheep farming year. Children can also use the kitchen to make something edible from some farm produce.
We are a certified CEVAS (Countryside Education Visits Accreditation Scheme) farm and receive year-round visits from many local schools from Reception, KS1 and KS2. If you are a teacher and would like to find out more about school farm visits, please go to Leaf Education.
- On-farm pre-visit meeting advised
- Visit programmes pre-planned (set or as required)
- Risk assessment produced
For further information or to arrange a visit, please email Frances Law or call us 07977 474 124.
The Black Barn stands at the entrance to Thrift Farm. In 2009 the former cart shed was converted into a meeting and conference room as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
The venue can seat up to 45 people with doors opening onto an enclosed garden. It has WiFi and projection facilities as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities.
If you are interested in hiring the Black Barn for an event, please email Frances Law or call 07976 390 706.
The Camp is a delightful, secluded wooded parkland area that is ideal for a spring or summer wedding or outdoor party venue.
Access is via a concrete road from the small village of Chrishall Grange. The village is easily accessible from the A505. Water and electricity are available on site.
The camp was established during World War 2 to allow RAF personnel to live near Duxford airfield which is 2 miles away. It is one of many around the area. Various structures such as air raid shelters and living quarters are still standing.
For further information on The Camp or to arrange a visit, email Frances Law or call us on 07977 474 124.
We welcome CAMC members to Thrift Farm, an easily accessible, dog-friendly, one-acre site. It has far-reaching views into Cambridgeshire in one direction and Hertfordshire across a wooded and undulating landscape, in another.
Thrift Farm is near Royston, and within easy access to the A1M and M11 motorways, is only 30 mins drive from Cambridge, and there is a direct train line from Cambridge and London Kings Cross.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07977 474124 to make a booking or for more information. Advance booking is preferred.