Blenheim Estate transforms sheep farming practices and announces partnership with Rappa Fencing
As part of its ongoing sustainability and animal wellbeing strategy, The Blenheim Estate is introducing mob grazing, a more sustainable way to manage its 1000 strong flock of Scotch Mule and Cheviot sheep.
The practice emulates how animals flock and feed in the wild, grazing down the sward equally, and means they eat the most nutritious top third of the plants and trample the less nutritious stalks onto the ground, helping to enrich the soil quality.
This new practice will see mobile electric fencing replace the 2000 acre estate wooden fencing via a partnership with Rappa Fencing. The new fencing system allows sheep to move to specific new grazing areas quicker and more easily.
A major upgrade of its sheep farming facilities, the transformation forms part of the estate’s ambitious land strategy that looks at innovative ways to move towards more sustainable farming practices. It is one of a range of measures being introduced to support its ambition to deliver carbon negative land management within 10 years.
Already, the Estate’s sheep lamb later than many farms because they are reared entirely on grass within the Parkland, keeping them as naturally healthy as possible. Blenheim Estate allows its sheep to give birth outdoors, in order to give the lambs the best spring grass and nutrients they need, making it vitally important that they remain safe and protected from interference from dogs. With Blenheim’s lambing season underway after Easter, there are renewed calls to help protect the lambs, with Blenheim urging walkers to keep their dogs on leads as part of its annual Thank Ewe campaign.
The Blenheim Estate has also introduced Pedigree Hampshire Down rams in September 2022, as it looks to diversify its livestock using native breeds that support its commitment to organic produce.
As the landscape opens up to more sustainable and traditional farming practices, shepherds on the Oxfordshire estate will use an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) equipped with an auto fencing machine from Hampshire based Rappa to establish terrain for mob grazing, which involves the sheep being regularly moved to different areas of the park.
‘We took the decision to do away with all the old permanent fencing and instead use a mobile system which allows us to be much more flexible,’ said Blenheim Estate shepherd Tom Locke.
‘Due to the number of sheep we have here and the fact that electric fencing will enable us to move to more sustainable practices, we needed to invest in equipment to help speed up work on the fencing, the most labour intensive aspect of mob grazing.
‘The Rappa ATV Winder has made picking up and putting down fences twice as quick as before as everything is so user friendly and close to hand while you are doing the job. The kit is very robust, British made and a cost effective way of giving our shepherds more time to focus on looking after the sheep. It ticked all the boxes for me and the work I would be using it for.’
Nick Cockayne from Rappa said, ‘Our system is tried and tested by sheep farmers around the UK and has proved its worth as a reliable and efficient way of keeping sheep safely grazing in different areas of land. It is designed to cope with a wide variety of terrains to offer maximum flexibility, and working with the Blenheim Estate team, we were able to supply equipment that will meet their exacting requirements and help them adapt to their new farming practices with ease.’
Rappa has led the world in mechanised electric fencing for 40 years, developing its original fencing machine into a complete range for everyone from smallholders to large multi-acre farms.