Farmer Focus: Why I won’t be hedge-laying and digging ponds

Following on from the furore caused by my last Farmer Focus article, I would like to clarify why I won’t be hedge-laying and digging ponds.

This farm spent 10 years in the higher-level scheme enhancing the environment, planting miles of hedges and taking field corners out of production.

All of this is still in place and will remain in place with no extra cost to the taxpayer.

See also: Organic mob grazing system cuts £380/livestock unit on estate

This period was not that enjoyable. I was constantly under scrutiny, grass margins and field corners were measured to a millimetre of their life, fields were constantly remapped, and payments were delayed.  

I don’t want to enter a one-size-fits-all scheme. My requirements are completely different from a sheep farmer in the Lake District.

We are a high input/high output farm and pride ourselves on putting more back into the land than we take out.  Our soil health is our number one priority, as this is our main source of income.

We apply 6,000 tonnes of organic material each year to increase the soil biota. This not only has a massive benefit to soil ecology, but increases yields, improves drainage capacity, and has the benefit of reducing artificial fertiliser use.

The livestock operation is run in a very similar way, constantly making adjustments and improvements to increase efficiency and production output.

Over the past year the average daily live weight gain for every animal that left this farm has been more than 1.8kg/day.

Cattle were on the farm an average of 20 days less for their finishing period compared with 2019. That’s 20 days less carbon and methane produced, so don’t tell me that high production values have a negative effect on the environment.

Because this farm is profitable it means we can invest in our soil and animal health. An extensive vaccination protocol limits the reliance on antibiotics.

The trouble with British agriculture is that we are dictated to by a small minority – the Disney generation as I call them.

They think food magically appears on your plate, and we all live in a fairy tale world.

If the automotive industry was treated like agriculture, we would be driving round in Austin Allegros. Farming is constantly held back, unable to use scientific advances or scale up to make a meaningful profit.

Doug Dear is a Farmer Focus writer from Yorkshire. Read his biography