Tag Archives: water management

Simply Sustainable Water

Water management is a global issue; however, the solutions must happen locally. The challenge and opportunity for farmers is how to produce more food, using less water, whilst protecting its quality. In the UK we have historically taken water, and its availability, for granted, but the last five years of extreme weather patterns has started to make us increasingly more aware of the challenges and importance of its management.

On farm, water is one of the most important natural resources, whether sourced from rain, rivers or aquifers, too much or too little can cause major challenges. Sudden rainfall events can lead to loss of nutrients and crop protection products and loss of timeliness of operations, while in severe droughts, farmers can struggle to keep livestock and crops alive. Increasingly, farmers will need to adapt to the ‘yo-yo’ effect of drought and flooding, however, putting effective long term risk management strategies into practice can be challenging.

SSWToday, we are delighted to be launching ‘Simply Sustainable Water’ in association with ASDA and Molson Coors Brewing Company. Demonstrating our joint commitment to raising awareness and opportunities for the best of water management and protection.

Measuring progress and delivering change is at the heart of LEAF’s work through the adoption of Integrated Farm Management and this booklet will help you do just that. If you make only one change on your land this year as a farmer, then make this your first step.

‘Simply Sustainable Water’ is available to download free of charge here and you can see a video showing the booklet in practice at Overbury Farms below.


stephen-fellStephen Fell is LEAF’s Chairman and Managing Director of the family farming business HR Fell and Sons Ltd, running a flock of 1000 sheep and growing root crops at Thorganby in the Vale of York. He is also Managing Director of Lindum Turf, a business growing and marketing a range of turf and specialist grass and wildflower products.


 

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LEAF Marque at the Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford

Photo: Courtesy Natural England

Huw Rowlands farms at Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford. Here he tells us of his journey to becoming LEAF Marque certified and how it has affected the way he farms now.


Here at The Grange Farm in Mickle Trafford we run Red Poll cattle as a single suckler herd, producing top quality beef which we wholesale to local pubs and restaurants and to Williamsons Butchers in Waterloo, Liverpool, and retail from the farm and at various farmers markets.  It’s a far cry from eight years ago when the farm was losing money on milk and was home to a herd of Friesian cattle.  The farm is in both Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship with Educational Access, and we host around sixty visits a year including taking part in Open Farm Sunday and Heritage Open Days, and are heavily involved with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Gowy Connect Project.  We grow small areas of low input spring barley, game cover crop and pollen and nectar mix as part of our Stewardship Scheme, and have ten hectares of poplar plantations for commercial use.  Perhaps the main change has been the philosophy of how we farm.  Rather than working against the land, we now work with it.

Pollen and Nectar Mix

In 2009 we stopped using manufactured fertilisers, partly because of cost, but mainly because we had discovered that our soils were degraded, and this was contributing to major problems with the health of our Red Poll herd.  We now use a small amount of treated sewage cake and a vast quantity of green compost from Waste Recycling Group at the nearby Gowy Landfill Site.  Being fairly extensive, the next logical step was to consider becoming fully organic, but we were prevented from doing so by two factors.  One was the use of sewage cake, and the other was that we would have had to send cattle for slaughter at an organically accredited abattoir, with the nearest being at Uttoxeter (60 miles away) or on Anglesey (80 miles away).  This would have led us to having to charge more for lower quality beef from more stressed animals which had travelled further to be killed.  We were also concerned about the environmental impact of the increase in extra fuel which this would have entailed.

Red Poll Steers on the moove!

So LEAF Marque accreditation seemed ideal, and we went for it and gained it for the first time in February 2011.  LEAF Marque has been a huge benefit in terms of publicity and marketing to the extent that we are now struggling to meet the demand for our Red Poll beef.  It is a guarantee to our customers that we are managing the land in a sustainable way and caring for our cattle to the highest standards.  The rigorous annual audit helps to ensure that good intentions are put into practice, and being in LEAF Marque is helping us to save money by encouraging, for example, rainwater harvesting and reduced fuel use.  Do I really need to use a tractor and trailer, or could I just do the job with a wheelbarrow?!

Willow Spiling: traditional bank restoration on the River Gowy funded by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, and completed by The Conservation Volunteers (formerly BTCV)

It may seem a big step to take, but I urge livestock farmers to look at joining the growing ranks of LEAF Marque producers.  You will find you can both save money and command a premium price for what you work so hard to produce.  And, as importantly, it is immensely satisfying seeing the increase in biodiversity on the farm year by year.

Red Polls conservation grazing on the Gowy Meadows

Preventing Run Off Successfully

In Britain we’ve just had the wettest April on record – despite Scotland seeing below average rainfall. In fact, some places saw as much as three times the normal expected rainfall.

This incredibly wet month comes just after a very dry March, which may have presented a few problems with run-off for many of our farmers in the UK. LEAF held two events in March on practical measures to improve water quality. At such a dry time, much of what we discussed at these events was theory based!

At Stratton Farms in Somerset, LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Jeremy Padfield, had a problem with run off on a particularly steep slope. Water was running off onto a road and down into a nearby village. To correct this, Jeremy dug a run off buffer in the field corner where the water was running through, which cost around £250 to implement, using a JCB and dump trailer.

Earlier this week Jeremy sent us some photos (taken 28th April), which clearly shows the impact the buffer has had during this wet month. For comparison, the second selection of photos show the run off buffer as they were exactly a month ago in March (28th).

28th April 2012:

28th March 2012:

You can see more of what Jeremy has done to help prevent run off on his farm in this video that was filmed in March.

Practical Measures for Improving Water Quality – New videos available!

Farmers looking at ditch and sediment trapFollowing our Practical Measures for Improving Water Quality events at Midloe Grange Farm in Cambridgeshire (22nd March) and Stratton Farms in Somerset (28th March), videos filmed at the events are now available.

The videos, supported by Catchment Sensitive Farming, look at ways of improving how your farming practices impact water quality. Including:

  • Background information from Catchment Sensitive Farming on some of the issues of diffuse water pollution from agriculture through surface run-off
  • Interviews with LEAF Demonstration Farmers, David Felce and Jeremy Padfield, on the measures they have put in place on their farms to mitigate surface run-off

The videos are available below and on LEAF’s YouTube channel – subscribe to be the first to see LEAF’s new videos!