How can farmers value wildlife?

by Richard Micklethwaite at Penhein Wildlife Conservation Scheme

Has anyone any comments on this theory?

We grow grass to feed to cows. The reason is that grass produces more volume than other “herbs”. So we pile on fertiliser to grow more of the plant that yields the highest volume. Like everything else grass is a bit like cars, there are Rolls Royces and minis. How do we know what we are growing?

With Nibblers we have two products, the “wildlife” and the meat yield. (Editor’s note: Nibblers is a discussion group for the Grazing Animals Project.)

If we measured the amount of time that cattle graze and the amount of time they lie down chewing the cud, occaisonally getting up to stretch and do a little “quatitative easing” in the current phrase, will we get a simple measure of the nutrient of the grazing.

If cows are grazing a small volume of very nutritious pasture and spend a lot of time resting instead of desperately trying to get adequate nutrients by grazing round the clock, then the equation of “yield” should shift towards conservation grazing.

Currently dandelions, say, are a “weed” as they displace grass, but if some dandelions yield nutrient to the cow then we like dandelions – but need a simple method of measuring that benefit, to label dandelions, good or bad.

Growing wildlife should be a crop like any other and so any such system would help promote integration of farming and wildlife, if we can then say to the farmer “You are getting £80 per acre from your beef and £50 from your wildlife” and getting that net yield involves dropping your fertiliser cost input, then we make progress integrating the two enterprises.

Show any farmer how to have a bit more cash to spend in Tesco and there will be considerable enthusiasm.

I have never forgotten at College there was a stupid system called gross margins for calculating profitability. If you got in a combining contractor then that cost was included, but if you bought your own harvester then that cost kind of got left out, how stupid can you get?

The only bit of good advice I got from an old fashioned manager was “Think cash”, hence trying to value pasture.

Richard M

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