Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Grass fed, good for the planet? We think so...

Meat has been in the headlines a lot the last few months.  This has really made us reflect on what we are doing here at Saddlescombe and ask ourselves some fundamental questions - are we farming in the right way for our planet?  We believe we are but of course we can always do better.  Our cows and sheep are purely grass fed, they are outdoors all year round, the exception to this are the ewes expecting twins and triplets who do get some supplementary feed in the weeks running up to lambing to support the growing lambs inside them.  Our cows are slow growing, when they are ready it means they have reached their size from only eating grass, we believe this makes their meat taste delicious as well as being higher in healthy Omega 3s.  We are also learning that grass fed animals are one of big solutions to storing carbon, a key answer to climate change.

As we understand it, grazing animals encourage increased natural photosynthesis through grass growth.  The grass absorbs the carbon, then releases it through its roots.  This process encourages and supports microbial activity which locks the carbon in the soil.  The more life there is in the soil in the form of microbes, the more carbon that gets stored.

Looking after our soil is really important, we try our best to do this through not disturbing it and allowing the animals to graze in particular ways.  We try our best to make sure they don't graze the grass too short, this ensures the root structure below is not affected.  If the root structure is affected the carbon cycle is just not as efficient. 

We are members of the Pasture for Life Association and follow their principles, please take a look at their website and this amazing example (copyright Christine Page from Smiling Tree Farm) of how the carbon cycle works through the cows when they are grazing.  We will continue to chat about this, there is still much to learn.

Beginning of October already.  The first crisp, sunny morning today and much appreciated after about 10 days of rainy, drizzly days.  We were glad to see the rain after a lovely dry spell so we are hoping that we should see a good flush of autumnal grass growth, very timely as the ewes have their annual rendez vous with the rams on the 29th October.

Moving lambs yesterday across one of our herbal leys, Fly behind

Ewes returning to grass after checking them ahead of tupping (mating with the rams)

Its been a busy couple of days with the sheep and organising the different groups around the farm and working out who has the priority grazing.  It was the ewes turn yesterday, we had them in two separate groups according to their body condition.  One group were a little leaner than the others so they had seen the better grazing.  We were encouraged yesterday how much better they felt as we put our  hands on their backs and on the dock, which is the top of their tail.  One group is now in the field neighbouring the rams for a few days . . .  so there has been a bit of 'flirting' by the gate.

William is now back with the group of steers (castrated males) and away from the cows.  We count the weeks he is in with the cows to allow enough time for them all to be in season but not too long as otherwise calving goes on for a long time next year, it is all a balance.  We watched William yesterday sat down on top of one of the banks, it was a beautiful day and we like to think he was up there enjoying the view, he really is a gentle soul we are so lucky to have him.

Family time is taken up with conkers, blackberry and sloe picking, what a great time of year!

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Fly