Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Time to Register for the Big Farmland Bird Count

After a year at the Allerton Project I’m honoured that Farmer Phil  has asked me to do a guest blog!
Phil thanks for the opportunity to tell your readers about the Big Farmland Bird Count. This is an initiative GWCT are running in partnership with LEAF and the FWAG Association.  Much of the good work done by farmers and gamekeepers to help reverse farmland bird decline goes unrecorded. We want to remedy that and help farmers and gamekeepers record the effect of any conservation schemes currently being initiated on their land such as supplementary feeding or growing wild bird seed crops and game cover crops. We recognise that farmland bird numbers have been declining but there are a lot of farmers out there who have been doing a lot of positive work that should be recognised.

Here at the Allerton Project we doubled songbird numbers whilst Phil continued to run a profitable farming business – you read more about how we did it here.

The count will take place between the 1st and 7th February 2014, and we are inviting you to spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm. You can choose your own location but somewhere with a good view of around 2 ha of the farm would be ideal. You'll be asked to record the types of habitat and cropping on and adjacent to your count site to help provide us with more detail about your count location. To see the highest number of birds we would recommend that the site includes or is close to an area of game or wild seed mix or somewhere that supplementary feeding takes place.

A pilot scheme in 2013 took in more than 10,000 hectares across 30 farms and recorded 69 species, from tree sparrows and yellowhammer to barn owls, kestrels and buzzards. Phil took part are recorded 18 different species including Reed Bunting, Linnet and Fieldfare.

We have already had nearly 400 farmers register their intention to take part.
A range of organisations such the NFU, CLA, LEAF The FWAG Association, Conservation Grade and Soil Association are encouraging their members to take part.

We want this to become an annual event and for that to happen we need all the support we can get in this first year. It’s a chance for farmers and gamekeepers to shout about what they do and hopefully it will convince others that they can do something to help birds and other wildlife on their farms.

Get involved and show you care!

Find out more and register here

Jim Egan
Head of Training & Development
The Allerton Project

Tel: 07713333159
E-mail jegan@gwct.org.uk
Web www.gwct.org.uk/allerton

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Ulster Arable Society Conference

This week I had the opportunity to travel to another part of the United Kingdom to talk to farmers, policy makers and agricultural stakeholders. It turned out to be an extremely informative and interesting trip.

The arable and business conference was organised by the Ulster Arable Society, Ulster Farmers Union and CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise). The day started with the launch of the HGCA Farmhouse Breakfast week and over 100 farmers attended a wonderful local produce breakfast (the spicy black pudding was a true champion in a terrific breakfast menu).

A terrific display of local produce... I did only go round once... promise!! 
(Picture courtesy of Ulster Farmers Union)

A series of short presentations highlighting the merits of the morning meal and local produce were well received.The early morning risers then headed across the campus to the venue for the arable conference.

The audience had now swollen to 250 and the organisers were delighted with the attendance.

A packed audience questions the speakers panel
(Picture courtesy of the Ulster Arable Society)
The importance of the subjects covered by the speakers, from CAP, rotations, markets and Single Farm Payments was reflected in the questions on active farmers, entitlements and the Greening elements.

Having got the recent Leicester Tigers defeat by Ulster out in the open, I turned my attention to more pressing matters. My brief was to talk about integrating agri-environment and Greening into an arable business. Using practical examples from our work at Loddington, the aim was to show the importance of food production, environmental responsibility and community involvement in a profitable sustainable business. A series of questions, after the presentations, sparked an interesting debate which was overseen by the eloquent Andy Doyle from the Irish Farmers Journal.

My thanks go to Ian Marshall and Barclay Bell from the Ulster Farmers Union who took time to take me on a tour around some of Northern Ireland's farmland.  John and Simon Best, who along with Allan Chambers gave me a much appreciated insight into arable farming in Ulster. The team at CAFRE and the Ulster Arable Society were also excellent hosts.

I managed to catch up with a former student who helped us with a couple of harvests at Loddington. Nearly 20 years later Richard Crawford is involved in an impressive farming journey of his own and showed me five farms, which further expanded my knowledge of the challenges facing Northern Ireland's farmers.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Game Cover Training Day to be held at Loddington.

New ideas, techniques and practical demonstration -
all included in the Game Cover Training Day 

26th March 2014
Kings Game Cover and Conservation Crops are organising, in conjunction with the National Gamekeepers Organisation an innovative training day at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project, Loddington, Leicestershire to provide members with the latest information relating to effective game cover management. Designed specifically with game managers in mind the aim is to give attendees the chance to find out about the latest crop management techniques and how they can be incorporated into the latest farming initiatives.

Richard Barnes, Sales Manager with Kings commented; ‘Following the success of the events held in 2013 on shoots in Devon, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire it remains clear that there is a specific training need within a topic area that is vital to keepers and shoot managers. With game cover planning and the subsequent establishment along with the ongoing management being a big responsibility – the aim of this training day is to help make that responsibility easier to understand and manage.’ Mr Barnes added; ‘The day’s are very much hands on with contributions from both the management team and Kings as well as time outside looking at machinery and habitat areas on the Shoot itself.’

The day will run from 10am – 4pm.

For further details or to book your place please contact Kings on 0800 587 9797 or e-mail kingscrops@frontierag.co.uk


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 A Quick Fire Five

As 2014 explodes via an array of festive fireworks, I've composed a list of  things that I hope come to fruition this year.
These are obviously in addition to good health and happiness, winning the lottery, England football, cricket and rugby teams enjoying success. The cynical and satirical Twitterers still keep plying their amusing trade!!

1. A further step on our precision farming journey. This will help improve our resource efficiency, especially in fertiliser application and cultivation traffic.
2. I hope the detail in the Greening regulations allows Ecological Focus Areas to help growers control black grass and the rules surrounding nitrogen fixing crops are not so onerous as to put farmers off adopting the option.
3. Continued constructive dialogue between DEFRA, Natural England, farmers and other rural stakeholders over landscape management. The countryside has to provide many functions and there has to be strategies that deliver a benefit to all.
4. The Big Farmland Bird Count - If farmers get behind this, it will prove invaluable information about what is happening to our farmland birds. It is something farmers have control of, rather than being told by others about the state of our rural landscape.
5. How do we stop so called 'progress' swallowing up farmland and wild life habitat. Major housing projects, some renewable energy projects, runways and HS2 are examples of society is oblivious to its detrimental strategy. It seems strange how we argue for maximum modulation for agri-environment schemes and then allow the environmental mayhem on farmland, ancient woodland and wildlife habitat with HS2