Saturday, 14 May 2011

"Preparer Les Terrains de L'Avenir"...Prepare the Earth for the Future

“Preparer Les Terrains de L’Avenir”. My French friends will be amazed with my command of the french language but this is a very appropriate title for this week's blog.
“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......
& photos of the Le Roux family & their farm this spring

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.

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.

Shane had a very clear long term environmental plan to improve the sustainability of their farm business based on having a soil capability map. This was in our view the most forward thinking "Sustainable Farming" management practice we saw in NZ. There are many aspects of soil capability that need to be considered. However some soils are dry free draining while others are wet with poor drainage & maybe even subject to erosion. These soils should not be managed the same way especially if our goal is to increase the SOM & carbon stored within the soil.
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.

Strawberry Clover is better suited to wet Soils

You need to start with a Farm Soil Map indicating the different soil capabilities. then develop a plan using a different approach.

Talk to me about Sustainable Farming.

Current UK Pasture Measurements

Welcome Rain in most areas 20-40mm, immediate increase in growth. However soils are still very dry & many farms have not harvested any surplus spring growth. Grazing rotations still long 30-40 days.

Average Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)

South Ayrshire AFC 2155, growth 62, demand 56kgs/ha/day

Dumfries, 2194, 66 growth, demand 57, cutting silage bales

Shropshire, 2300, 60 some rain this week

East Staffordshire, 1970, 39 approx 20mm rain now some growth 60-70

Hereford organic, 2114, 48, rain 46mm growth up 10kgs/day since rain

Hereford 2100, 70 growth, demand 65

Gloucestershire, 2160, 62, 22mm rain on Saturday

Gloucestershire, 2180, 85 growth

West Somerset, 2100, 50, 33mm rain but drying out again

Cornwall, 2300, 105, 32mm rain, record production STD,AI 80% in 1st 17days

Cornwall, 2398, 118

South Kilkenny, Ireland, 2075, growth 71, demand 66

Members of Wyegraze Discussion Group are all linked into Agrinet to very effectively share pasture information.....Every group should be doing this as it will help all groups

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