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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Sudden death of farming legend

A TYNEDALE farmer who transformed the face of farming across the world has died, aged 77.

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Highly respected: Lloyd Forster, pictured in 1995.

Blanchland farmer, Lloyd Forster, suffered a fatal heart attack while chopping logs on Monday.

Mr Forster revolutionised winter feeding on farms by masterminding the development of the bagged silage system which is now standard practice throughout the world.

His simple invention in the 1970s made him famous in farming circles the world over and led to him being made an elite member of the Royal Agricultural Society.

In 1995 Mr Foster was honoured by the farming world at a glittering occasion at Claridge’s, in London, to celebrate his contribution to the industry.

The son of a well-known farming family at Glenhill, Allendale, Mr Forster farmed at Berwick for six years before moving to Acton, Blanchland, just over 46 years ago, where he ran Angus and Limousin suckler cows and Blackface and Swaledale cross sheep.

But, for thousands of farmers across the world, he is known as the farmer who bagged a good idea.

It was back in 1978, as an experiment, that Mr Forster made 80 round bales of wilted grass and put them in plastic bags.

Right in the early days there were people in the industry who were quick to grasp the simple concept, though it took others a little bit longer before they too were convinced that here was a simple idea that worked.

A flexible system, it was a lifesaver to hill farmers and others without their own clamp silage making facilities.

The end product equalled other silage in nutritional value, it cut down on silage effluent soaking into the ground and waterways, and, because it was stored in its own sugar, the silage didn’t ferment, so enhancing its preservative value.

The new method also meant that grass that normally would have gone to waste could be collected and bagged – all helping to ease winter feeding of stock.

Initially, the grass was placed in plastic bags capable of storing around half a tonne.

Mr Forster’s groundbreaking idea captured the interest of commercial concerns, and also won the approval of ADAS.

It wasn’t long before people began finding their way to the 1,200 acre Acton hill farm, where Mr Forster and his wife, Carol, spent 29 years.

It was open house and Mrs Forster quickly lost count of the many visitors she fed and made tea and coffee for.

Meanwhile, every now and then, her husband was off on his travels, and firms with a commercial interest in the system pushed developments, from plastic bagging to stretch-wrapping the silage aided by remote control, and, alongside all that, ideas for machinery and equipment to complement the process.

Despite his huge success, Mrs Forster says her husband remained firmly grounded his entire life.

She said: “He went out on a beautiful spring day to do something useful and that’s the way he lived his life.

“He lived for farming and I know he would have been thinking about the lambs and the grass growing before he died – that’s the sort of thing he did.

“He was honoured by the great and the good of the farming world, but he was also highly respected as an ordinary farmer.

“He won a whole host of awards throughout his life for what he did, but he never played it up – in fact he played it down.

“He touched a lot of people in his lifetime because he was kind and would help anyone.”

Mr Forster served as field manager for the Blanchland and Hunstanworth Show and was also president of Blanchland Sports Club.

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