Holistic crofting

Last week Lynbreck Croft went on tour (well one of us did…) down to deepest darkest Englandshire to attend a course run by RegenAg UK on Holistic Management. We were fortunate enough to be given a scholarship place funded by Holistic Management International so we were very grateful to be in attendance.

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This was the first lesson to be learned. We’re not quite there yet….

Holistic Management is a very clever, yet very straight forward way of setting up, running and managing a farm or croft business. It’s all about setting a clear vision for what you do, planning how you’re going to do it and figuring out not just how it’s going to pay for itself but how it will actually make you a bit of cash – maybe not a millionaire but certainly a few spare coins.

 

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There were lots of different people in attendance from long established beef and diary farmers as well as aspirational farmers to representatives from bigger organisations including the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust. And there was no sitting back and simply getting fed information – interaction and involvement was key!

 

The best thing about the whole model is that in addition to the business side, it pays particular attention to good environmental land management. It’s all about having healthy, organic matter rich soils that grow plentiful herb and wildflower rich grasslands providing food for happy, relaxed cows.

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On Day Two we saw grazing in action. With tenant farmer Rob Havard, we visited a National Trust estate where planned mob grazing is producing astonishing results

 

How does this happen? Well it’s a mutually beneficial relationship based on entirely natural principles. In its simplest form, good soils produce (or have the ability to produce) good forage for cows. In return cows help to keep the grass growth vigorous and fertilise constantly through poops and pees. The trick is to keep the cows moving regularly so that they don’t eat too much or too little of one area and the natural fertiliser is spread across your whole grazing area. Another clever trick is to give the cows some wildflower seeds in their mineral licks. Once it works its way through, the cows are effectively spreading new seeds to help introduce/keep/spread a mix of herbs and wildflowers. AND as an added bonus, overtime these soils will grow in organic matter and perform a similar role to trees in helping to lock up carbon!

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There are only 2 words to describe this scene – Happy cows!

 

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But we had to do some work as well. Measuring the grass sward and using these figures to help us calculate how much grass there was across an area and then how many cows it could feed. This then helps to determine how big a mobile paddock has to be to provide enough food per day for the cows

 

It all sounds a bit too good to be true eh? But we think we might just give it a go. There’s lots of thinking to do, planning to do and figuring out to do but if it does work (and there are plenty of examples to back this up) well we might just be on to a winner. Let’s just see how we go…..

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Oh and there was one other highlight. Fantastic food provided for us every day by course co-ordinator Natasha, with food mostly sourced from the produce of participants farms. We weren’t able to contribute as much as others (yet, I hasten to add….) but we happily brought some eggs from our chooks.