A shift towards regenerative and more holistic grazing systems is enabling farmers to build greater resilience to fluctuations in weather patterns and market prices by working more closely with nature and reducing interventions.
Regenerative grazing involves higher-intensity, short grazing periods with long resting times in-between, using a system of paddocks.
It keeps the sward height high and encourages regrowth and development of plant and root systems, which also improves soil microbiology and function.
This type of management helps to improve soil condition, biodiversity and livestock health, and maintain steadier financial margins against the backdrop of a reduction in subsidy payments and increasing input costs.
We spoke to four farmers, including one with a consultancy role, to get advice on how to get started with regenerative grassland management.
- Rob Havard farms at Phepson Farm and is an ecology consultant managing 404ha (1,000 acres) of rented or contract-farmed land in Worcestershire, with about 150 pedigree cattle plus followers
- Russ Carrington is manager of Knepp Regenerative Farms, and former general manager of the Pasture-fed Livestock Association. He is in the first year of regenerative grazing on 63ha (156 acres), initially with 25 traditional Sussex cattle and calves, plus 50 Longhorn heifers on a B&B arrangement during the summer. Grazed area and livestock numbers are planned to increase towards full stocking potential
- Wojtek Behnke manages Aqualate Estate in Shropshire. Lleyn sheep and Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle are mob-grazed on 80ha (200 acres) with horses, occasionally.
- Richard Tustian has been a shepherd in Oxfordshire managing 1,500 breeding ewes, about to return to family partnership on mixed arable, beef and sheep farm totalling 200ha (494 acres) on the Northamptonshire border. Of this, 40ha (99 acres) is permanent pasture and 10ha (25 acres) is herbal leys, currently running 250 breeding ewes and 25 suckler cows