Ecologists learn about the benefits of pasture farming

The PFLA teamed up with the British Ecological Society in November to give ecologists the opportunity to see and experience the environmental value of grassland ecosystems.

The event saw a diverse group of 30 people travel to the PFLA’s office in Cirencester for a morning of presentations and discussion, followed by a farm walk in the afternoon.

A mixture of farmers, conservation graziers, people with an interest in farming, students, representatives from Wildlife Trusts and academics, heard first from general manager Russ Carrington who gave an overview of the PFLA and the Pasture for Life certification programme.

Dave Stanley, a farmer and environmental consultant, spoke about the science of pasture-fed farming and soil, and Jonathan Brunyee, a farm business lecturer at the Royal Agricultural University, presented the economics of beef and sheep production and the financial benefits to farmers of going wholly pasture-fed.

After lively discussion, the delegates headed off to a nearby certified Pasture for Life farm. Ian Boyd rears organic pedigree Hereford cattle on 100 hectares in the Cotswold hills near Cheltenham.

After a tasty lunch of 100% grass-fed beef stew, prepared by Ian’s wife Cathy and daughter Steph, the group heard how the farm’s beef is sold direct to the consumer under their Cotswold Beef brand.

During a beautifully sunny autumnal afternoon, Ian presented his herd of Hereford cattle which was mob grazing a species-rich herbal ley containing five grasses, five legumes and five herbs. Soil structure and health was discussed with practical demonstrations showing what ‘good’ soil looks like.

There was plenty of debate and many ideas traded throughout the day. Feedback from the event has been very positive with attendees describing it as interesting and useful. Some intend to look into grazing systems and mob grazing in more depth, and to research direct selling meat.

Many thanks to the British Ecological Society for supporting the event. The PFLA hopes to host more meetings like this in future.

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