Denise Walton - Scottish Borders
As well as running an organic and Pasture for Life accredited mixed farming business within the Scottish Borders, Denise also sells her produce through an on-farm butchery.
|Farm Type||Livestock - Organic & Pasture for Life accredited|
|Total area farmed||263 ha (650 acres)|
|Total cropping area||4 ha (10 acres) fodder crop|
|Total number of livestock||150 suckler cows and followers; 6 bulls; 40 sheep & 20 pigs|
What climate/environmental actions have been undertaken on the farm?
"Our priority action has been to create habitat infrastructure to support biodiversity i.e. hedgerows, woodlands, ponds while restoring and enhancing existing habitats eg wetlands. We have also moved our farming rotation away from cereals to minimum tillage of grass (with livestock), keeping cover on ground with long-term grasses, minimising tillage to grass renewal on a 10 year cycle (spring ploughing only to minimise weather impacts), with 4 Ha (10 ac) fodder crop on rotation (later summer tillage only). We have reduced fuel use and tractor use (3 tractors down to 1 over 4 years) and have erected a wind turbine to make-up for the increased electricity use of our on-farm butchery."
What impact have these activities had?
"Climate: Increased Soil Organic Carbon, Livestock and wildlife shelter from weather events, Increased Organic Matter and winter grass cover controls run-off and prevents topsoil erosion.
Biodiversity: Long established (and probably increasing), breeding bird species and plant species indicators of healthy functioning habitats (including regional and national rarities)
Business benefits: Good for brand trust and recognition; talking the same language with consumers as their awareness and knowledge increases which in turn gives our meat more 'market traction'.
Cost & time saving: Saving £60 - 70,000 per year on zero fertiliser and other agri-chemical cost, reduced fuel costs and zero feed costs for the cattle and sheep - both are fed on-farm grown grass only."
What was the catalyst for you taking this action?
"The family business started with an 8 Ha (20 ac) small holding in 1990 and has been on an agroecological trajectory (which has included organic and pasture-for-life certification), since including the direct supply of meat."
Have you completed a carbon audit & are you gathering any other data about the climate/environment impacts of your farm?
"Yes, we have had an Agrecalc carbon audit completed by SAC Consulting and we have undertaken a complete soil survey of every field on the farm, including the Soil Organic Carbon Stocks. We plan to assess the Soil Organic Matter and SOC on a five year basis."
What are your top tips/lessons learned from the experience that other farmers should consider if taking similar actions?
- Improve soil condition and restore soil organic matter.
- Transition to zero agri-chemical input to reduce costs and improve climate resilience (soil health and soil biodiversity).
- Improve/restore habitat infrastructure for climate resilience, livestock welfare and crop protection.
- Reduce tillage by converting to grass, bringing grass-only livestock into the rotation.
What if anything would you do differently?
"Focus on soil health and restoring Soil Organic Matter sooner."
What, if anything, are you planning next around climate and biodiversity?
"Working harder on soil health through livestock grazing and management. Continuing to improve farm habitat infrastructure."
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