“I turned to Marc for help in reducing weeds and developing a shoot that encourages wildlife as well as holding game birds,” states David Luff, keeper at Fordham Farming Partnership near Baldock, Cambridgeshire.
Successfully combining farming, conservation and sporting interests, the private estate covers 1000 acres and currently provides around 12 days shooting a year, beginning with partridges in September and moving onto pheasants.
Faced with a single ‘signature’ drive and a significant grass and broadleaved weed burden where plots had been used for game cover for decades, Mr Luff contacted Marc for his expertise on game and weed management. Marc visited the estate to meet him, along with the estate contractor, to consider the options available and agree an agronomy plan for future crops.
“My priorities were to meet our stewardship scheme requirements by creating a decent feeding area for wild birds as well as game birds and to address the weed problems,” explains Mr Luff. “I’m now in my second year here and my aim is to get the seedbeds as clean as possible.”
With advice and continued support from Marc, Mr Luff has carefully established and managed new game crops to address the weed burden that had been allowed to develop in previous years. Plots with a broadleaved weed issue were put into maize undersown with Tanka Millet Mix and Kings Sorghum Mix to provide more diverse feeding, windbreaks and flushing points. Where grass weeds were a problem, Poacher maize or Moir Mix have been used to reduce the rogue millet in particular. The bespoke Moir Mix including chicory also doubles as a wild bird seed mixture to meet Higher Level Stewardship requirements as well as providing feed and cover for game birds.
Mr Luff is pleased with this year’s performance. “Holding birds doesn’t seem to have been easy for anybody this year, but we put some new partridge drives in this year which worked very well. Our maize has grown well, so have the wild bird seed mixes and we’ve got on top of the rogue millet,” he says. “Marc is always on the end of the phone and gets here as quickly as he can if I need him which is a great help.”
Now that the rogue millet is under control, the team will focus on reducing the seed bed burden of fat hen too.
The future of the estate is bright. Marc describes Mr Luff as a proactive keeper who is keen to improve the quality of shooting, variation in how the drives work and quantities too.
“We’ll be putting in two more partridge drives for next year and a brand new pheasant drive too, which has never been done here before. We’re a small estate but this will give us more options and more variety for the guns to make for a better experience all round.”