“We have over-complicated farming so much”

Farming cattle can be simple, according to Ben Thomas from Treveddoe farm. Ben was a main character in the hit British film, Six Inches of Soil, which saw him establishing his regenerative pasture-feed beef system Cornwall.

Reflecting on his progress, three years on, he told 8.9ha editor, ffinlo Costain, that farming outdoors was much more straight forward than working with cattle in an indoor unit.

He said, “For me farming can be so simple and we have just overcomplicated it so much with a lot of these systems. For me, cows can graze grass really, really well and convert that to milk or meat.

“Running a simple system, with them being out of doors, we see really low health problems – we’re never treating our cattle for pneumonia, we hardly ever see any cases of lameness – the cows, because they’re outside in their natural environment, we hardly see the vet – it’s great!”

Ben is also a champion of agroforestry. He explained, “We practice mob grazing on our farm, we move our cows every day through summer and winter. And because they’re kept in smaller areas instead of letting them have the whole field, that’s great for your grassland management.

“However, in terms of animal welfare, when we’re having these extremes of heat (those 40 degree Celsius days a year or two ago) and then on the flip side in the winter you might have a driving wind and it could be zero or minus five degrees, animal welfare can be implicated if they have no shade and shelter.

“That’s where the trees come in on our farm – in the form of hedgerows, in the form of shelter from the existing woodland, and then looking forward to the agroforestry system we’re going to implement, we’re designing that so that the cows, no matter where they graze across the farm, they’ll always have shade and shelter.”

He said that trees also contribute to the cows’ nutrition. He said, “Following on from that, there’s browse, so they can get extra minerals from the different trees at different times of year – willow and oak, they absolutely love those – and then you’ve also got the biodiversity angle as well, creating more habitat on the farm.

“I think it just all just adds up really as a neat package to help push the welfare of our system and then that creates a better end product, doesn’t it?”

Watch our interview with Ben Thomas


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