Pasture Champions: Bella Lowes and Mill Barton Farm 4/4
What are the benefits to the farm?
The benefits to the farm are numerous. In areas which were historically overgrazed (but not ploughed) the increase in floral diversity is enormous, in only a couple of years. By grazing with extensive rest periods and at specific times of the year, indicative Culm or wet pasture perennials have appeared in some places and spread out from others, where they may previously have only numbered one or two plants.
As the floral diversity has increased the number of pollinators, birds and mammals beyond them have also increased. Whenever we look up, there are birds of all types flitting around. Whenever we look down, there is always something moving under our feet.
All this diversity is building resilience into an increasingly stretched system.
How do you monitor it?
Moving the cattle everyday, even the ones left out over winter, means that we circumnavigate the farm twice a day, every day. This allows us to feel the changing seasons and see the micro alterations through the year. Each time we enter an area previously grazed, we look for changes and try to identify patterns - year on year we become more intuitive. Given our upbringing, immersed in the countryside, a lot of that knowledge has grown with us but when we started keeping cattle, it led us to search for more and to recognise the intrinsic connections between the grazers and what they are grazing. It is this symbiosis between our animals and the land, both of whom have evolved in lockstep, which is helping to increase biodiversity on our farm.
Our longterm goal is to increase our herd size in accordance with what the land can support and to keep them in the landscape 365 days a year. To achieve this, we recognise that diversity, in all things, is resilience, and that abundance is a reliable indicator of the health of the ecosystem as a whole.
We recognise the role of large herbivores in the landscape year round as essential: their grazing and browsing habits as well as their herd behaviour, and so we see the beef we produce as a byproduct of the essential work that our cattle are doing to restore the land they roam.