Since 1800, the United Kingdom has lost about 500 different species. Let’s not lose any more.
It’s not just exotic species in Africa or Asia that are threatened with extinction. In 2010 – International Year of Biodiversity – a report by Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage revealed that the United Kingdom has lost a huge number of native species in the last 200 years. These include around 12% of our land mammals and almost a quarter of our native butterflies.
It’s my job to be the eyes and ears of the farm, and build links with UK wildlife partners – from organisations like the Wildlife Trusts to Government agencies and community groups.
Working in partnership, we’re achieving all sorts of successes in areas like habitat improvement (creating ponds for amphibians and rare water plants, building nest boxes for barn owls); re introduction of over 42 bird species; the creation of wet woodland and fenland, which has now been designated county wildlife site.
There are lots of steps along the way to ‘saving species’. It’s about habitats, ecosystems and landscapes, and about awareness, appreciation, understanding and respect. There’s no point saving species if we haven’t saved enough habitats to support them in the future.
We should be acting for all wildlife, not just the rare and endangered species. And acting before we get to the crisis point, where plants and animals are threatened with extinction.
For us that’s what farming with wildlife is all about, helping to ensure healthy, robust and functioning ecosystems, supporting the planet for the future, and safeguarding wildlife that is understood and valued by people. And that starts right here, in our own back garden, on the farm.
"If you talk to animals they will talk with you and you will know each other.
If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear.
What one fears one destroys."
Chief Dan George
It has been established that grazing is recognised as an essential tool in conservation management of wild areas. Grazing by cattle, sheep and goats has been shown to improve site biodiversity by opening up areas and creating a mosaic of habitats for plants and invertebrates. Correctly managed at the right stocking density they can decrease the dominance of certain plant species and therefore protect plants and animals by increasing their opportunities for survival and colonisation. A high density of invertebrates (attracted by the animals and their by products!) can also have a positive effect on bird and mammal species that feed upon them.
Our Bagot and British Primitive Goats have made significant impacts on a range of sites across the land, with one SSSI even gaining favourable status after a couple of grazing cycles. Their ability to browse means that encroachment by birch and willow saplings is kept at bay, helping to prevent habitat succession. They have also opened up areas simply by moving through the undergrowth and appear to have had an impact on invasive Himalayan balsam just by trampling it down.
We started conservation grazing on one small site with just 6 Bagot Goats back in 2007. But with the help of selective breeding programmes we have been able to build our Bagot's thus allowing us to significantly expanded the sites that we graze.
Education is very important and we try to manage this through several sessions a year where the public can met the animals and talk to us about them.
As graziers we have a responsibility to our animals to ensure that their five freedoms are met. This is where the traditional breeds excel as they thrive on sites that other animals would fail. Evolved to live on marginal habitats they thrive on these green oasis.