The farm was first noted around 100 years before the Doomsday Book as a Saxon Estate and the Fardel Stone, now in the British Museum, was found on the edge of the farm in the 1860s. This stone was the first to be found in England that bears Ogham inscriptions on it’s edges, suggesting that Irish settlers reached this part of South Devon as long ago as the fifth century.
And the reason why this land has been farmed continuously for so many years features in an old rhyming couplet, passed down through generations, which is thought to point to the high quality of the farm at Fardel and the productivity of the soil: “Between this stone and Fardel Hall, lies as much money as the Devil can haul!”
Moving to the present day the farm is now owned and run by the Dennis family, with father Derek farming in partnership with his son, Jeremy (pictured).
And with 325 dairy cows (the Dinnaton herd of pedigree Holsteins) and all associated youngstock on 700 acres, the farm is certainly productive. The farm is only 300 ft above sea level but in the rain shadow of Dartmoor so it gets an average of 60 inches of rain a year.
“This year has been a dry year – we’ll have had only 45 inches of rain,” explained Jeremy. “But a year like this is good for us – plenty of grass for high-quality silage and grazing and good growing conditions for the corn and maize crops.”
Cows average around 8,000 liters of milk per year and milk is sold to Farm Right as specialist Omega 3 milk, ultimately destined for M&S. To achieve milk high in omega 3 the cows are fed a fish oil based protected fat, which can depress butterfats, with rolling averages hovering around 3.8% fat and protein at around 3.2%.
But it is not only the farm that has history – Actisaf® protected live yeast has a historic pedigree in the Fardel ration as well.
“We first started including Actisaf® in our dairy rations about 10 years ago,” explained Jeremy. “We had made particularly acidic maize silage that year and we had some trouble with acidosis. Feeding Actisaf sorted it out and we have included it ever since, although now it is more to help fiber digestion and rumen function.”
Actisaf® is mixed on farm within a pre-mix containing hipro soya, sugar beet, soya hulls, rape, molasses, wheat distillers and crimped maize. This pre-mix is then fed with grass, maize, and triticale whole crop silages as a TMR, with a small amount of compound feed being fed in the parlor.
Some of the straights, the compound feed and the Actisaf® are provided by Mole Valley Farmers, with local rep Greg Warren calling at the farm regularly.
“Mole Valley Farmers are a good company to deal with,” Jeremy said. “They have a good range of high-quality products and good deals.”
“And we will certainly continue using Actisaf®,” he concluded. “It seems to help with digestion and rumen health and a healthy cow is ultimately a productive cow.”