By Ruth Kinber.
Still no meaningful rain. The cows are now being supplemented with second cut silage and the dry and young stock with straw. It’s a worrying time as we are now relying on rain to bring forward a third cut of silage to replace what’s being eaten now.
I’ve been asked my opinion on regenerative farming. Well, I have to say we have been practising it for years. As a mixed dairy/beef farm, we operate a rotation cropping system. We have cattle which graze the paddocks, moving on to let the sward recover and grow – they, of course, leave behind them valuable manure. We have sheep which also make their mark with eating all the plants – weeds, some might say! – and again the valuable droppings are left behind. The crops of grass for silage and maize are grown primarily using farmyard manure and slurry from the cattle – both feed the soil and the plants. The challenge comes when farms just grow cereal with no livestock to aid soil fertility and structure.
My other big grumble is introduced species, plant and animal. I’ve been saying for several years, grey squirrels damage trees, and in particular young trees, and sadly our native oak seems to be a favourite snack. Too many deer is also a real problem for newly planted trees – I believe the muntjac is particularly damaging to saplings. We now have a programme of reintroducing beavers without any real plan if and when we have some unexpected problems down the road. They, of course, fell and feed off trees, creating dams and flooding areas which can aid wildlife or in the wrong place cause flooding downstream and destroy woodland.
Our brooks and rivers are being overtaken by Himalayan Balsam, a pretty pink plant, but very invasive which soon chokes native vegetation. Japanese knotweed is another such plant. We have also seen the rise in ragwort, again a pretty yellow multi-headed plant, but not only poisonous to horses and cattle but again very invasive and smothers other plants.
We live on a small island and, with lots of humans, we have to try and live together, but balance is the key.
Home food production has never been more important since the Second World War. We can produce more food and deliver for wildlife, but we must be smart about how we manage it.
A new threat to productive agricultural land is the purchase of farmland to mitigate the carbon used by big business and individuals in air travel. So, without making the necessary changes to your business or lifestyle, you can ease your conscience by buying land then planting trees all over it! There are even some Government grants! Unintended consequences, I feel, or not joined up thinking. Tree planting is great, but only in the right places, then those trees need to be protected and looked after until they can fend for themselves, like most young life. We have planted a few on our land but it has to be done intelligently. Our parish council is embarking on a small scheme to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but not first looking into the most suitable trees for our land and how to look after going forward.
Kimbers Farm Shop, The Kitchen and Somerset Trading Barn, Linley Farm BA9 8 HD; www.kimbersfarmshop.co.uk Phone: 01963 33177; open Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-5pm, Saturday 9.30am-4pm.
By Ruth Kinber.