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Farming

Farming and organic conversion

A Lamb looking at the camera
Spital Tower has always been a stock farm and has largely avoided the intensive farming practices that many farms adopted in earlier decades.

Livestock remains the focus of the current operation. We keep our own flock of hill sheep and work with a local farmer to graze his own cattle and sheep too.

Sheep and cattle are kept on the hill ground and rough pastures all year round, whilst their winter feed is made in the hay meadows during the summer months. Lambing and calving are flexible, happening outside if the weather permits, through March and April. Using native breeds, such as North Country Cheviot sheep and Luing Cattle enables a less intensive approach to stock management, with minimal interference being a goal.

Agro-Forestry and The Hill

Livestock are allowed to graze certain areas of woodland and parkland, with under-plantings carried out to ensure these woodlands continue to regenerate. Grazing pressure on the heather by the Luing cattle encourages new growth and prevents overgrowth becoming a fire risk. Often where they have passed over and churned up the soil, saplings of birch, oak and rowan can be found the following spring.
The hill ground covers roughly 150 acres of land. It consists of open heather and dense hawthorn woodlands. The hill is home to a range of species, including lapwing, snipe, woodcock, roe deer, brown hare, (Badenoch survey). It is also home to our flock of North Country Cheviots and a herd of Luing Cattle belonging to a local farmer. The hill is covered with areas of open scrub woodland of hawthorn, birch and rowan and regenerating Scots Pine woodland. We encourage this through careful stocking rates, whilst also removing non-native regeneration, such as Sitka spruce. Sheep and cattle use the open woodlands for shelter during the winter and birds use it as a valuable food source.

Fences have also been removed on some of the ex-commercial woodlands that were not restocked and allowed to naturally regenerate, to allow our livestock more shelter. Tree boxes of mixed native species are also planted across the hill, to encourage the regeneration process.

Heather is cut in the autumn, to reduce wildfire risk and allow for young new growth of heather and blaeberry to appear, both very tasty to our animals. Cutting is limited to roughly 10 acres a year, only taking out old growth, allowing for a varied height of heather across the hill, providing different habitats favoured by different species of bird. In cutting, we always retain regenerating native trees.

Conversion to Organic Farming

Organic farming provides a range of environmental benefits, such as improved natural soil health and fertility, increasing carbon storage in soil and more wildlife and biodiversity. Organically farmed produce can also attract a premium when sold.
The seeking of Organic Farming Certification was an obvious choice, as non-intensive farming has been the norm at Spital Tower. Livestock play an important role on most organic farms, making the process more easily achievable for us.
The adoption of management practices that build and enhance natural soil fertility with the application of organic matter, green manures and long-term crop rotations, and non-chemical control of weeds, pests and diseases have not required huge changes in approach.
The 2-year conversion process began in 2023 with the assistance of The Soil Association.

Farming at Spital Tower

If you would like to know more about farming practices at Spital Tower, drop us a line at

Robert Bailey
Spital Tower Agriculture (STAg)
Spital Tower
Hawick
TD9 8TB

Or simply complete the form here.

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