“Prepare the earth for the future” is the core element of a Sustainable Farming system.
My very good friends Erwan & Laurence Le Roux, who farm in Brittany, France have recently won the “Trophee de l’agriculture durable 2011” award for the most sustainable farm in France. This is a most prestigious award & I am absolutely thrilled that these innovative & forward thinking pasture based dairy farmers have won.
You can read (using Google translate) & view a video......http://agriculture.gouv.fr/bien-vivre-en-production-laitiere
& photos of the Le Roux family & their farm this spring http://photo.agriculture.gouv.fr/galeries/TAD2011_Leroux/
The UK is somewhat behind France in encouraging “Sustainable Farming” practices & to their credit the EU Integrated Farming Initiative or EISA have thought this issue thru very well
If you search the internet you do find other countries & organisations now working toward more sustainable farming practises, all taking a slightly different approach.
http://www.soilassociation.org/Whyorganic/Climatefriendlyfoodandfarming/Strategiesforchange/tabid/565/Default.aspx http://www.icrofs.org/ http://www.sluri.org.nz/
I think we need to interpret the EU’s EISA framework & work toward our pasture based dairy farms becoming recognised as being sustainable farm businesses using many of the benchmarking tools already developed.
The 8 main points of Sustainable Farming are:-
To have a profitable farm business not dependant on subsidies.
To manage soils for the future with less dependence on fertilizers & to build Soil Organic Matter (SOM) so increase soil carbon storage.
To reduce Energy consumption by reducing demand & generating on farm energy. To lower the Carbon Footprint of milk.
To better manage Water (conserve & reduce use), reduce pollutant losses.
To improve Dairy cow welfare, fertility & animal health.
To have a sustainable people practices.
To increase the bio diversity on the farm.
To develop long term business communication strategies not only with buyers, but with the professional support teams & the local community.
“Prepare the earth for the future” (Point 2) I think we need to rethink how we manage soils with our pasture based dairy farms. I don’t know of a single farm in the UK that has shown me a detailed soil map of the farm.
In NZ we met Shane Carroll & Nicola Shadbolt who farm in the Pohangina Valley near Palmerston North.
In the UK some soils are perfect for ryegrass & white clover but others are not. Dry soils may well be better off in herbal pastures ie Chicory + clover or Plantain + White Clover without grasses. We need to move away from thinking that ryegrass/clover is our only option especially on dry soils. It may not be our best option to increase soil organic matter (SOM) either so we need to start looking outside the box.