July 1, 2024

A full circle approach: How responsible farming can encourage biodiversity.

Joined by John Morris, our beef farmer at Willersley Court farm we discuss the importance of farming stewardship and the symbiotic relationship between livestock farming and local wildlife.

Improving arable land and soil health with herbal lays:

As a sustainable and modern farming practice striving to reduce its environmental impact on the wider ecosystem, John explains how grassland must be managed to maintain its goodness! Adding herbal lays to his land has been both beneficial to his produce and farm productivity, and he explains how this pasture land also provides a positive contribution to the wider wildlife ecosystem.

Using local grass seed supplier Whittal Seeds to create the perfect blend of grass, legumes and herbs, the herbal lays practice is reinforced and encouraged by government funding and a sustainable farming incentive. Like many farmers taking this approach, John understands the many benefits, both for the environment and his business, as well as resulting in better quality meat produce for us!

We explain some of these benefits below:

Environmental Benefits: Land will produce more flowers for pollinators. Improved soil structure will increase organic matter, and the added nitrogen to the soil improves soil fertility. Lays capture more carbon and transfer this to the soil. More water is retained and in turn, there’s less run-off. Benefits for Farmers: There’s a reduced need for supplements, as well as reduced cost of fertiliser and herbicides. Lays result in increased crop yields due to improved soil health. Rotations will help to control any weeds, and deeper roots mean yield is further protected against adverse conditions like drought. For Better Quality Beef: Mixed grasses, legumes and herbs provide cattle with a diverse and nutritious diet. Grasses provide cattle with energy, legumes provide a great source of protein, and herbs and wildflowers provide the necessary minerals that help plants to naturally control pesticides.

A symbiotic relationship between livestock farming and protecting local wildlife

In addition to adding herbal lays, responsible stewardship accounts for a farmer’s responsibility for the protection of local wildlife. For John, protecting bio-diversity means looking after everything from bugs and birds to aquatic river life! He says, “Wildlife is improving over the last 50 years, as we leave the area near to the river untouched.”
At Willersley Court Farm, we look after our stretch of the river, we have built 6-metre strips around the brooks and river banks to keep livestock back. This space means that the livestock cannot trample and erode the banks, and damage vegetation. Erosion can lead to sedimentation in rivers, which could harm fish and aquatic life, and this protects the natural habitats that survive in the zone between land and water.

Farmers can also ensure the protection of birdlife, by timing the maintenance of shrubs and hedges so as not to disrupt nesting birds. Birds act as a natural pest control, they encourage pollination and can also help with weed control. At Willersley Court, John leaves his hedges for 2 or 3 years, and keeps an eye on their bird visitors, so as not to disrupt when they’re nesting.

Cattle can work hand-in-hand with wildlife, here’s how: 

The cattle take off the top section of grass and not the roots, this pruning stimulates more healthy grass growth. A cow pat makes great food for worms and bugs, which in turn feeds the birds, and the birds feed the foxes and so on. You can see how farming becomes a full-circle approach to sustaining the wider eco-system.

Farming for generations

We’re passionate advocates for farming and our local rural communities, who play a huge role in our wider environmental resilience. Farmers’ historical knowledge and understanding of the land is passed down through generations. We work proudly with local farmers who prioritise sustainability, with a passion for maintaining local land and traditional practices, who ensure animal welfare and quality produce, whilst staying ahead of the curve and adapting to an ever-changing farming landscape.

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