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A Week on the Estate: Greylags Coupling Up, Native Breeds Boosted & Pasture for Life

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This busy year is flying by. Saturday 20th March will mark the spring equinox, the halfway point between midwinter and midsummer. The hundreds of greylag geese that descended on the lake over the winter aren’t wasting any time. Numerous birds have coupled up and moved closer to the Hall on the south lawn. They’re evidently happy with the facilities and it won’t be long until this year’s new goslings appear.

This week, we were delighted to assist with a video feature on the region’s wonderful native breeds for BBC East Midlands. Our Lincoln Reds are a good example of the UK’s rare and native breeds, livestock bred over many generations to be perfectly suited to the landscape they graze. While the 20th-century saw increased use of imported breeds for bigger yields, there is growing awareness that matching the animal to its landscape is a vital part of sustainable agriculture.

greylag geese

The Agriculture Act 2020 seeks to persuade farmers to ‘invest in rearing rare and native breeds or species because these genetic resources could sustainably increase food production or improve capacity to adapt to climate change of new diseases.’ If this means healthier, hardier animals contributing to a healthy rural ecosystem, then it is good news. We hope that farmers will be helped to market sustainable beef and milk without more tractors, buildings and fancy formulas. We’ll be playing our part and watching with interest.

We’re also encouraging our readers to embrace the standards of the Pasture for Life Association as wholeheartedly as we have. By grazing our Lincoln Red herd on our biodiverse pastures all-year round, we get healthier animals, better meat and a flourishing ecosystem. Look out for the ‘Pasture for Life’ mark when you shop and find out more at the PFLA website.

Pastures brimming with grass, herbs, clover, wildflowers and microbial life in the soil offer grazing animals all the nutrition they need. While some UK meat and dairy products are sold as ‘grass-fed’, that definition can include cereals and manufactured feeds. Pasture for Life specifically prohibits feeding soya to accredited livestock.

Pasture for Life logo with Lincoln Reds

Pasture-grazing livestock like our Lincoln Reds live the healthy, outdoor life to which they’re best adapted. They form family groups, behave naturally and are less likely to suffer the diseases associated with confinement.   Grass-fed livestock offer a significantly lower carbon footprint than cereal-fed animals. Not only are natural pastures effective carbon sinks, but grazing animals return nutrients to the soil in their dung. Dispensing with artificial fertilisers reduces the energy used in chemical manufacturing and keeps the soil biome healthy.

We’ve implemented a one-hectare paddock system. Every three days, our cattle move into the next paddock where they can enjoy some long, fresh grass. They’ll return to the same paddock about six weeks later once the grass has re-grown. Cattle, pasture and local wildlife all seem to thrive on this approach, with quite a few birds nesting in the longer grass.

South Ormsby Estate’s herd enjoys ‘high-health’ status – the highest standard of cattle health that can be registered. They live outdoors from March-April to November-December, depending on the weather. Their winter feed is haylage sourced entirely from the estate. Year-round, the herd is sustained by the land at South Ormsby, and by a herd-team who care for their welfare.

 

* Banner image courtesy of LH_4tography via Flickr CC

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