Conference day Two: Sustainable Intensification

Been to a very informative fringe meeting on sustainable agriculture. It was based on the idea of feeding our cattle on pasture, rather than cereals. A low input, high output model, as opposed to the purely organic low input low output model, or the high input, high output version we see at dairy farms such as that proposed at Nocton.

The two farmers we heard from, Iwan Jones and John Turner talked about using Britain’s natural grassland – the best in the world due in part to our climate – to feed cattle instead of using tons of cereal, which fluctuates in price on the world markets.

Iwan showed that he was able to produce similar levels of milk solids per hectare to conventional herds, but with much less levels of feed – typically 300kg per cow as opposed to roughly a ton of cereal. Using cereals is a poor use of a resource that we can use to eat (instead using something we cant – grass), and contributes to climate change.

Intensive means of dairy farming also need fewer, lower skilled jobs, affecting the rural economy. So concerns for Labour as it strives to have more high skilled jobs across the economy.

Plenty to chew on there – especially the news that he gets a lower price from the supermarkets than his intensive colleagues, simply because it costs him less to produce. So in a way, he was subsidising the “cheap” method of farming.

Thanks to Robert Flello MP for chairing this event. It opened my eyes.

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One Response to Conference day Two: Sustainable Intensification

  1. That sounds really interesting. Of course I’m sold on moving from feeding cereals towards feeding grass and silage/hay for as much as possible (perhaps supplemented with catch crops of fodder). I believe in the states some meat is described as ‘grass fed’ and wonder if this is a label worth pursuing in the UK.

    As a fan of organic methods of farming, I’d be interested to know how this system differs, and if these differences result in lower animal welfare or environmental standards.

    I appreciate that it is better to feed cattle on grass than on cereals in terms of how oil dependant cereals are. I also know that traditional meadows which aren’t ploughed, but managed for grass and a single harvest of hay are excellent for much of our wildlife. So it’s much better than intensive cereal-fed cattle rearing. But I still think organic standards are something we should be striving for – farming without harmful pesticides, high standards of animal welfare etc.

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