‘Mob grazing helps put organic matter back into the soil’

June 16, 2019

MANY BENEFITS: “We’re helping the environment – you’ll see the diversity, a snowstorm of butterflies, you’re putting organic matter in the soil, you’re taking carbon out of the atmosphere, sequestering it and it is producing a much healthier product and the meat from these animals has a better proportion of Omega 3 to Omega 6.” – The bonuses of mob grazing as trialled by Duncan Leaney of the Sustainable Food Trust.

 

FOOD MILES: “Are you better off eating a lamb that has been bred on my farm, grazed on the beautiful Cotswold pasture and is full of wild flowers, or something that’s been shipped half way around the world and may have contributed to deforestation. There has to be a balance.” – Adam Henson, co-presenter of Countryfile and Gloucester farmer.

 

NO COMMENT: Animal rights activists referred to in the Telegraph by Adam Henson – VIVA (Vegetarian International Voice for Animals), International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Aid and PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) had nothing to say on the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak. Picture courtesy of Alamy Stock.

 

 

LIVESTOCK farming plays a huge role in the stewardship of National Parks and environmental sensitive areas in partnership with conservation organisations.

This was revealed in a on-line clip that I found featuring West Somerset farmer Duncan Leaney from 2017 which involved specialized grazing that benefits both the farm in terms of productivity and increased biodiversity for the environment and cutting down on the amount of fertilizer used.

‘Covert footage obtained by trespass’

The idea to focus on education in this article was prompted by an intervention by Countryfile presenter Adam Henson in The Daily Telegraph about misleading information put out on-line by animal rights activists about “perceived cruelty” to livestock when the activists had in many cases illegally taken footage without the owner’s consent and paint them in the worst possible light without the content being challenged.

‘Eat locally not globally’

Mr Henson says children must be subjected to farm visits to see for themselves how livestock are reared on the farm before being sent off to slaughter to combat the on-line propaganda.

“What drives me mad at the vegan vigilantes who post horrendous things on social media that aren’t true.

“Are you better off eating a lamb that has been bred on my farm, grazed on the beautiful Cotswold pasture and is full of wild flowers, or something that’s been shipped half way around the world and may have contributed to deforestation. There has to be a balance.

“But let people eat what they want, I don’t have a problem with that.”

‘Vegans went silent on Foot and Mouth cull’

Adding to Adam’s observations, I can add that when I covered the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 for the Western Gazette and 10 million livestock (nine out of 10 being perfectly healthy) were slaughtered in the biggest animal welfare scandal in modern times, the animal rights activists referred to above were contacted for a reaction on what was going but there was incredibly a deafening silence from them. This was their moment and they fluffed it.

However, from an animal welfare perspective, the RSPCA and Compassion In World Farming made vital contributions in the debate at the time, with the former calling for helicopters to drop hay in fields where livestock had been trapped in fields via the 22-day movement restriction rules.

‘Mob grazing works well with rotation’

Working with the Sustainable Food Trust, Duncan Leaney used mob grazing to reduce overheads, making savings for the medium-sized farm in terms of thousands of pounds, has created a bit more work but has benefited the health of his beef cattle. The cattle are regularly moved onto deep pasture more regularly on a rotational basis.

Mr Leaney looked at his overheads and cut back on fertilizers and pesticides and took the advice of a older colleague who advised him “in farming it is easier to save money that it is to make money.”

‘Root structures generate more protein for the ground’

“The distribution of muck and products of the cows and you do a rotation – depending on what time of year – of about 60 days. A third is trampled, a third is eaten and a third to regrow.

“By doing this you’re not depleting the root reserves, you’re getting bigger root structures which give off things like cake which is proteins, carbohydrates and sugars and feeds the population underground and I never really thought about the wildlife or the microbiology but by trampling it in, about £100,000 worth of stock can go up to £1M. Traditionally we used to dry out on this farm and we’ve got long recovery periods.”

‘Omega 3 acids in beef are good for general health’

Clutching some grass, Mr Leaney says that mob grazing has had benefits for biodiversity, cut overheads and improved the quality of his beef and has put organic nutrients back into the soil. His beef contains Omega 3 fatty acids that help to promote eye and brain health, fight depression and anxiety and improve risk factors for heart disease.

‘Organic matter improves environment and meat’

“This grass is damp and that is suitable for microbiological material and what you are doing is sequestering and putting organic matter in the soil. We’re helping “environment – you’ll see the diversity, a snowstorm of butterflies, you’re putting organic matter in the soil, you’re taking carbon out of the atmosphere, sequestering it and it is producing a much healthier product and the meat from these animals has a better proportion of Omega 3 to Omega 6.

‘New organic grazing benefits business’

“I’m saving money on fertilizers. I’m increasing the stock rate and I would say in two or three years since we have put the stocking rate up considerably, up about 30 per cent and in the summer we’d be feeding them additional hay, now we don’t do that.”

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