Farming & Food
Grass provides the perfect diet for cattle and sheep. It is all they need to produce nutritious, healthy meat for people to cook and eat.
But grass can be tricky to manage. Its one aim in life is to grow, produce a seed head and then die. Only skilled grassland farmers can manage it to produce high quality animal food throughout the year – grazed out in the fields or given as conserved winter-feed, either dried as hay or pickled as silage.
The people I write about in these blogs are some of the best and most innovative farmers and chefs in the world. They look after their soils, their land and their animals and take great care to source and prepare the best meat possible. We should be proud of them all.
It takes a brave man to sow half his cropping area down to herbal leys all in one go.
But Tim May, managing director of the 1,000ha Kingsclere Estate, has done just that – in the firm belief this is the economically and environmentally sustainable path his business needs to take.
Tim, the fourth generation of his family to run farming operations on the open rolling North Hampshire downs, is turning to grass and livestock, sheep for now, cattle later, to improve the depth and nutrient content of his ground. Very alkaline chalky soils are locking up valuable nutrients the arable crops cannot access, leading to declining yields.
When I was in NZ six years ago – I saw a T-shirt that proclaimed that ‘The grass grows greener in New Zealand’ – something I think farmers in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the western half of England might dispute! However, flicking through my photos from my recent visit there does show how much grass dominates the landscape and why it drives the country’s economy. Here is a gallery of gorgeous grasses from my travels:
I have just completed a cracking four-day tour of Tasmania - a taster of farming Down Under before attending the 22nd International Grassland Congress in Sydney, a four yearly gathering of 800 or so of the great and good in global grassland research, science and...read more
I stumbled across a charming set of posts from Scythecymru.wordpress.com, charting their hand haymaking process during this glorious July – from mowing with scythes, rowing up, picking up and stacking in racks – some with ‘hats’ on.
This has included a ‘social mowing’ day when the organisers were joined by others in the community keen to learn a new/old skill and to lend a hand.
The Gloucestershire group of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (www.pasturefed.org) has just been to visit one of the organisation’s growing band of Approved Suppliers.
Ian and Kathy Boyd sell meat from Whittington Lodge Farm near Cheltenham, to consumers at local shows, from the farm gate and by mail order. Their cattle only ever eat high quality pasture, and no cereals or grain-based feeds.
DairyCo’s Forage for Knowledge newsletter has been fascinating this year – to see how grass growth and quality has progressed since March/April. After the cold, late start, grass – the wonderful plant that it is – seems to have caught itself up. Farmers seem happy with the quantity out in the fields and already in the clamp. But now there is a real danger of quality plummeting, as grasses thrust up their seed heads in an effort to reproduce!read more