Farm of the Week: Succession secured as young family take over from childless Nidderdale farmer who didn't want his land to become a 'tourist property'

Succession on a farm can be a dilemma, but not for one young man based in Nidderdale who has found that succession needn’t always come purely in terms of one’s own family.

Steven Stoney and his partner Jessica Worsnop moved into Carlesmoor House Farm, Kirkby Malzeard in January 2020, where Geoff Lobley has farmed for many years.

“I used to go up and help Geoff when I was a teenager,” says Steven. “I remember him telling me when I was 16 that ‘if you’re saving money lad, you can come and live up here.’

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“In 2018 he’d got wind that myself and Jess were looking for a farm and he said, ‘I think it’s time you were coming’ so we got things sorted. We’ve done up the derelict property, as there were two properties on the farm and Geoff still lives in the other one. We gutted ours and started afresh. Geoff still has a few cows and helps us out with his old International tractor.

Steven Stoney and Jessica Worsnop at Carlesmoor House Farm, Kirkby Malzeard. Pictured with their son Joseph.
.Steven Stoney and Jessica Worsnop at Carlesmoor House Farm, Kirkby Malzeard. Pictured with their son Joseph.
Steven Stoney and Jessica Worsnop at Carlesmoor House Farm, Kirkby Malzeard. Pictured with their son Joseph. .

It was Geoff’s desire to keep the farm alive as a farming business by taking on a tenant that brought about Steven’s dream to farm in his own right.

“Geoff has no sons or daughters and he didn’t want the old farmhouse that we have now totally renovated becoming some kind of a tourist property. He wanted it to carry on being a working farm and for that Jess and I will always be grateful.

Steven grew up on his parents’ Andrew and Sheila’s farm in Galphay and had found himself thrust into action on the farm at a young age.

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“Quite some time ago my dad handed the sheep over to me. That had been my main focus at home until we came here.

Jessica pictured with business partner Lucy Moore.Jessica pictured with business partner Lucy Moore.
Jessica pictured with business partner Lucy Moore.

Steven and Jess have lost no time in establishing their farm enterprise that comprises sheep and cattle with a fledgling pedigree herd of Herefords which they have also started with their good friend Lucy Moore and saw them show at Wensleydale Show for the first time last month.

“At the moment the sheep are the biggest thing,” says Steven. “We have 800 breeding ewes, which are made up of 300 Swaledales, 120 Mules, 380 Texel-cross out of Mules; and 200 hoggs, which are 100 Swaledales, 50 Texels and 50 Mules.

“We didn’t have Swaledales at my dad’s but I’d always wanted my own Swaledale flock. It was my granddad on my mum’s side, John William Burrill, from Dallowgill, who’d had them, so it’s in my blood.

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Steven has moorland rights for them and says that he has expanded his sheep fairly rapidly since they arrived, which has increased their acreage needed.

Steven on Carlesmoor with his Swaledale sheep.Steven on Carlesmoor with his Swaledale sheep.
Steven on Carlesmoor with his Swaledale sheep.

“We now rent 650 acres of grassland all around the area and have a moors turnout of thousands of acres. Our farmland joins the moorland. We rent everything.

Breeding their own replacement females is vital to Steven’s sheep system, but tups are bought-in.

“We buy all our tups,” says Steven. “I bought some tups out of Barnard Castle last year and we will buy one or two privately if we can. I’m intending on going to Hawes for Swaledale tups this year.

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“Most of our fat lambs go to Leyburn Auction Mart and some go via Pateley Bridge Auction Mart to ABP at York. I don’t like all my eggs in one basket.

“The Swaledales are hefted to the moor. When they are in-lamb we’ll keep any ewes with single lambs and the hoggs on the moor, but ewes with twins we’ll keep inside.

There’s a change of lambing times coming this year, for one year only, as another new life is imminent around the time Steven and Jess normally start with their first lambings of Texels in January.

“We’re not doing that this year. We do normally try to get some away early, which we have done in the past, but Jess is expecting our second child in January. Lambing this year will be from late-March and through April.

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Steven started the suckler herd with a dozen cows and calves from Geoff’s herd. Steven, Jess and Lucy are now looking at their Hereford herd becoming the dominant breed.

“When we moved here we bought Limousin-cross and Angus-cross stock from Geoff,” says Steven. “We’ve currently got a mix of Hereford-cross, Angus-cross, British Blue-cross and pedigree Herefords. It’s a suckler herd of 43 cows in all.

“We are producing calves for ABP York, calving the majority over autumn/winter. We would like to transfer the whole herd to Hereford eventually and establish ourselves in the breed.

Steps have already been taken to gear up their pedigree prowess with their show debut in the summer agricultural show season this year.

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“Showing isn’t really about me. I’m just the muscle,” says Steven. “Jess and Lucy are the show people. Jess already has a great record in showing Clydesdales and qualifying for such as the Horse of the Year Show.

“I’m enjoying getting into cattle showing and I’m looking forward to where we’re going with it. Me and Jess do most of the prepping and Lucy comes when she can. They both do the actual showing while I just sit there and reap the rewards.

“We had a few rosettes and reserve champion at Wensleydale Show with a year old heifer. We’ve built up the herd with some we’ve bought privately from Welburn Herefords near Helmsley, some off Matt Taylor of Taymar Livestock out of Shrewsbury Auction and a year old Coley heifer from Halifax. Our pedigree herd is now five cows, ten heifers and two Hereford bulls which we use on both the commercials and the pedigrees. Our original bull is from Clitheroe and our latest bull from Whitehill Herefords at Burnsall.

“I prefer autumn calving because it means the calves are bigger for the summer and the shows.

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“We will be at Nidderdale Show next weekend (Sunday 24 September) where we will be taking two heifers, two cows and, potentially, two bulls.

Steven says the farm is as self-sufficient as it can be.

“We grow all our own feed, hay, haylage and silage apart from hard feed like barley, nuts and concentrates.

Jess and Steven both have jobs away from the farm too.

“Jess breaks and rides Clydesdale horses for Kate Smith at Ripley and the Bedfords at Whixley. I go contracting for JR Middleton of Masham. I drive tractors with balers or combines. I’ll turn my hand to anything to make sure that everything works.

“We want to go forward by building up our numbers and breeding something as good or better than anyone else, no matter whether it’s a Swaledale, Mule, Texel, Hereford or any of our suckler cattle.

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Steven is undeterred by the way in which lamb prices have dropped recently and the single payment being lost.

“Earlier this year our best price lambs were making £180. They’re now back down to £110. And when the single payment goes completely it will hurt, but hopefully more schemes will come along.

Steven’s grandfather is Joe Stoney, known to many as Mr Nidderdale Show. Steven and Jess’ little boy aged 4, carries the same name, Joseph Stoney, and will be at Pateley Bridge carrying on the family tradition next weekend.