RABDF’s Down To Earth conference starts in two weeks

This year’s Down to Earth will focus on the facts, opportunities, science and practicalities of regenerative agriculture. The conference is tailored specifically for livestock farmers interested in understanding the principles behind the regenerative farming approach.

Matthew Knight is the Managing Director of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF). He spoke to 8.9 TV News and explained why Down To Earth was set up in the first place.

“We got a bit frustrated at RABDF, along the lines that dairy farming or livestock farming gets hammered from certain circles, and is seen as the devil for climate change – and this isn’t the case. It always amazed me that certain organisations wouldn’t push back on that accusation – and some of those accusations can be pretty aggressive. We started to think why? And we came to the conclusion that people don’t know the true facts – that they can play a positive part in climate change and working with the environment.

“We came to the conclusion that there was a knowledge exchange piece here, and we at RABDF believe that farmers like to learn from other farmers – face-to-face learning, good practical advice – so the concept of Down To Earth was launched and it spiralled from there.”

Knight said that “Regenerative farming resonates with consumers. I remember watching Autumn Watch a few years back – they always go to an area of land that talks about where the woodpeckers are, where the wetlands are – and smack bang in the middle of that map was regenerative farming land. The penny dropped that consumers can relate to that term – so it’s really important that we get our head into it and what it is.”

This year Down to Earth is being run across two events – one in the north and one in the south – following unprecedented demand from the inaugural 2022 event held last summer.

On Wednesday, 21st June, dairy farmer Neil Baker will open his gates at Haselbury Plucknett, Somerset, for visitors to see his high-yielding indoor herd of 1,800 predominately Holstein cows in action. Neil is one of Arla’s regenerative pilot farms, so will outline some of the projects he is working on.

Then, on Thursday, 6th July, Mark and Jenny Lee, Park House Farm, Torpenhow, Cumbria, will showcase their organic unit. Their farm consists of 175 milking cross-bred cows, certified 100% pasture fed by Pasture for Life and mob-grazed on a 30-40 day rotation using 2.5km of grazing tracks.
The south event comes first – and there will be a main stage with keynote sessions from Neil Baker talking about his farm, and ffinlo Costain talking about the positive value of cows in addressing climate change. There will be industry debates about regenerative farming, asking how farmers can take their first step on that journey, and up to 90 exhibitors in the trade area.

Knight also said “There are various Talking Stations, which will look at a maize trial on Neil’s farm, co-drilling and increasing biodiversity – pasture management, looking at various leys – sustainable feeding options. Neil is an Arla’s regenerative pilot farmer, so he’s looking at what he’s feeding his cows and the food miles to get the feed to the farm – we’re looking at sustainable energy, there’s the AD plant there, so the fuel that can be taken off that to power tractors and electric tank handlers – and a soil science Talk Station too.”

More information about Down To Earth

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