Saturday, 6 August 2011

Caring Pasture Based Dairy Farmers Encourage Biodiversity

Biodiversity on pasture based dairy farms is seriously important. If dairyfarmers are seen by the public to be caring for the environment & making a special effort to protect the biodiversity, this too is a major PR with our consumers. There are very strong arguments for farmers to protect biodiversity as well as enjoying it for its own sake. The farms are both our homes & our work places.

Ben & Jerry the ice cream makers have established the “Caring Dairy” Program with Sustainable Indicators. Most pasture based dairyfarmers would embrace this program & agree fully with the targets.
Sustainability Indicators: measuring sustainability performance
“Caring Dairy” has developed 11 sustainability indicators. For each indicator, measurement points or parameters have been defined that enable actual performance measurement. Each Caring Dairy farmer determines the focus of his improvement plan based on the farm situation – such as soil type, land division situation, farm strategy – and personal priorities.  
Agriculture has shaped most ecosystems in the world, and biodiversity can be improved or reduced by agricultural practices. Some biodiversity is highly beneficial for agriculture. Sustainable practices can improve biodiversity - by `greening the edges' of the field.
Examples of parameters:
1) Level of biodiversity on site: number of species (e.g., birds, butterflies) and varieties (e.g. grass); farm landscape; habitat for natural predator systems (e.g., hedgerows, ponds, non-cropped areas)
2) Level of biodiversity off-site: cross-boundary effects.
Apart from its intrinsic value, biodiversity has a function in a number of ecological processes highly relevant for food production. These `life support functions' of biodiversity include the soil nutrient cycles & regulation of pests by means of biological control. Agrotechnology has broadly increased the independence of these functions at the cost of high inputs of fossil fuel, artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The concept of `sustainable' agriculture aims to re-establish equilibrium: life support functions and technology should be farm attributes of equal importance. Here, the integration of farming and nature comes into play.
Australian studies in Gippsland, Victoria have shown that: - Sheltered pastures lose 12 mm of water less than open pastures during the spring growing season. Sheltered areas have increases up to 17% (estimated) in dairy milk production and 20% (estimated) in average annual pasture growth for meat producers.
As well as having a high-tech context, pasture based dairy farming needs to embrace a keen understanding and use of ecological patterns and processes and a tolerant attitude towards nature elements on the farm: managing biodiversity is the starting point for ecologising agriculture. The dairy farm at Wageningen University in The Netherlands has been a leader in this field of dairying being a holistic approach.
Sustainable dairy farming is protecting and improving the natural environment, animal welfare, and conditions of the local communities, while at the same time being productive and efficient.
• Producing milk with a high nutritional quality to meet existing and future needs, while keeping resource inputs as low as possible.
• Ensuring that any adverse effects on soil fertility, water and air quality, landscape and
biodiversity from dairy farming activities are minimised and positive contributions are made
where possible.
• Optimising the use of renewable resources while minimising the use of non-renewable
• Sustainable dairy farming should enable local communities to protect and improve
their well-being and environments.
• Sustainable dairy farming should ensure an optimal well-being of the animals (cows).
Profitable pasture based dairyfarmers need to show the world that they care for their environment & that they want to encourage biodiversity.
Unprofitable dairyfarmers are not in that position. Quote:- "If you are in the Red its very hard to be Green"
Current UK Pasture Measurements
Pasture growth still very variable dependant on rain. You have either had it or still waiting for it!
TheAverage Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
Scotland, South Ayrshire, Average Farm Cover 2420, Pasture growth rates this week 91kgsDM/ha/day
North Wales, 2220, gr 70.
North Wales, 2070, gr 70, just enough rain at right time
Cheshire org, 2000, gr 25, 42 day rotation, no rain, feeding silage & cake
Staffordshire, 2220, gr 10
Staffordshire, 2100, gr25 burning up fast need lots of rain
East Staffordshire, 2000, zero growth NO RAIN
Shropshire, AFC 1947, growth 15
Derbyshire, 2157, gr16 feeding cake & wholecrop, 5mm rain
Nottingham, 1800, zero growth, demand 69, going backwards soils very dry
Herefordshire org, 2000, gr 20 very dry missing rain
Herefordshire org, 2213, gr 37 demand 33, getting dry
Herefordshire org, 2090, gr39 demand 40
Gloucestershire, gr 42 down 25kgs on week very dry until 16mm rain
Oxfordshire, 2100, gr 29, de 25 15mm rain expecting lift in growth
Somerset org, 2470, growth 51 great growth plenty of rain
Dorset, 2000, gr 30, plenty of rain yesterday
SW Wales, 2170, growth 75
East Sussex, 2100, gr 30, cows dry, 25mm rain yesterday
Cornwall, 2610, gr58, taking silage out to lower AFC 2450
Northern Germany organic, AFC 2130, growth 49, 23 day rotation Wet & Warm!


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  2. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

    Agricultural Practices

  3. Hello, my name is Emily and I am in the seventh grade. In science I am doing a project and I chose the brown Swiss dairy cow as my research animal.(Because I show them) and I need to explain the role of biodiversity in ecosystems with Brown Swiss cows.Why is biodiversity so important to farmers? You can e-mail me at thank you, Emily.

  4. Dear Emily,
    Thank you very much for your question regarding why biodiversity is important for farm ecosystems. It’s a very good question & I hope I can help you with your school project.
    Biodiversity to me means lots of different creatures not only on the land but in the air water & soil. Different creatures have different tasks eg some eat the rubbish while other convert straw or plant waste to humus.

    Biodiversity is hugely important to a healthy environment. In much the same way as monocultures (say farms with only one crop) are vulnerable or are at risk from say diseases. They say if you see one new species on your farm there must be another 7 new species that you haven’t seen yet but are required to support the first ones you saw.
    Charles Darwin did some amazing studies about how life has evolved over time. Key to his findings are that only the fittest survive……….so the survivors not only change over time but they compete to be the best. With the world climate being very wild & changeable it is very important we have species that are “fit” and can survive. Most species depend on other species to survive. Think of cats eating mice for example.

    On farms we will have far less diseases if there are a range of different plants & creatures…………some of whom eat bacteria & fungi.
    For a healthy dairy farm you need the same liveweight of organisms, bacteria, small creatures in the soil as you have above the ground as cattle. So a healthy soil that supports 2 cows per acre(assume each cow weighs say 1200lbs) must have 2400lbs of soil organisms per acre. Amazing…..2 tons of creatures in the soil per acre all very busy doing their jobs.

    Another example is to have lots of bees & pollinating insects so that farm crops are fertilized & reproduce. Without bees farmers would be in serious trouble producing crops.

    Your Brown Swiss dairy cows are ruminants (have 4 stomachs). They need a diverse set of bacteria & protozoa (tiny creatures) in their rumens to digest grass alfalfa & corn. If the farmer changes the diet a new set of bacteria & protozoa are needed to digest the new feed. So its very important to have lots of biodiversity even in the cows stomach.

    Farmers depend on a healthy environment with lots of biodiversity. The environment is amazing & if farmers do the wrong thing (say cultivate too much) nature has a way of telling farmers they have made a mistake. Most farmers try very hard to protect the environment so that nature looks after the farm & the farming family. Farming is great because you can work with nature.

    I hope this helps you. I live in New Zealand do you know where that is? New Zealand is a very beautiful country in the South Pacific………….we have lots of dairy farmers & lots of cows. I hope you get the chance to visit one day.
    I hope you have a great 7th Grade year
    Kind regards Tom