Livestock Management

Farm walk: conservation grazing in harmony with nature

You are invited to a farm walk by Bill and Cath Grayson who run a conservation grazing business in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our animals graze a variety of wildlife-rich habitats on land that is recognised for its nature conservation value. They are managed in ways that help maintain and enhance the biodiversity-value of these special places, where we work in close cooperation with the conservation bodies who care for these sites. At the same time as delivering these important benefits for wildlife, our livestock are also able to provide an important source of healthy food in line with agroecological principles (organic, pasture-fed, high welfare, free-range). They need more time in which to do this but we feel it is reflected in the taste and nutritional quality of the final product. Sign up for our farm walk if you would like to learn more about how agroecological farming works in harmony with nature.

You will need to book places on this walk separately. More information will be sent to all ticket-holders.

Replacing imported soya – a supply chain or a farmer issue?

Hosted by the Soil Association

Sold as either a ruminant food with an oil by-product, or a by-product of the production of human consumption oil, soya has become a main stay of livestock production in Europe but is also a driver of large scale deforestation in south America. Efforts to reduce its use often fail, often for some very ‘reasonable’ reasons – widespread availability, relative cheapness and seeming lack of interest in alternatives. But is this all the fault of the supply chain or are we as farmers partly to blame? With a climate suited to grass growth, a need for break crops and a need for UK farmers to reduce GHG emissions and move away from N fertilisers, is now the time to produce our own protein?

This session explores the issue from all sides, with a panel comprising a supermarket representative, a livestock feed producer and a farmer.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jerry Alford,  Soil Association Arable and Soils Advisor – Jerry is interested in a systems approach to farming, looking at farms as a whole system rather than a mix of enterprises or a series of crops in rotation. He is also looking at options to reduce cultivations within organic rotations and the adoption of more agroecological and organic type systems in non-organic farms. Jerry coordinated research for the OKNET ECOFEED project, which looked at regional production of proteins for monogastrics.

Sam Lee-Gamgee – Sam is Group Ethics and Sustainability Manager, raw food sourcing (food) at John Lewis Partnership

Rob Daykin – Rob is Managing partner at Daykin partnership Ltd

Mike Mallett – Mike is Farm Manager of Maple Farm Kelsale, a 137ha family owned mixed organic farm situated on the Suffolk Coast, where Mike has been manager for the past 6 years. It is mostly arable but is also home to the Maple Farm Kelsale Organic Eggs, which is integrated into the arable rotation. The primary role of the arable cropping is to supply food for the hens whose eggs are sold all over East Anglia and London.

How can agroforestry contribute towards climate change mitigation?

Hosted by the Organic Research Centre

National representatives have gathered for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). We know that more is needed, but how can we achieve it? The land management and farming sectors have a vital contribution to make to meeting global targets on climate change. Farmers and food businesses can be at the forefront of developing and implementing at scale solutions which cost-effectively address sustainability challenges. However, their contribution is often under-supported.

We believe that agroforestry can contribute to the achievement of future climate change mitigation targets, but what policy environment can support it? We will explore this question with a panel representing the latest research, on-farm experience, and policy developments, followed by open discussion with attendees.

In this session we will focus on the climate change benefits of agroforestry. We will explore the carbon benefits of agroforestry systems as well as how trees on farm can help build resilience and support adaptation to extreme weather events. The practicalities of implementation and the current direction of travel for support options via the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will also be discussed.

After presentations by the panel, there will be opportunity to share your experiences and shape the conclusions drawn from the meeting. The presentations, discussion and conclusions will feed into the development a policy brief that will be delivered after the meeting: highlighting the benefits of agroforestry for climate change mitigation alongside recommendations on how these benefits may be realised.

Speakers/hosts include:

Becky Wilson – Becky is Technical Director of the Farm Carbon Toolkit and has been working with farmers for the last 8 years helping assess their current carbon balance, understand the practical mitigation measures available and implement them. She has been leading The Soil Carbon Project; a partnership project aimed at understanding the potential for soil carbon sequestration across farms, and how soil carbon can be assessed and measured in a way which is practical and robust.

Andrew Barbour – Andrew works on a family farming and forestry business in Highland Perthshire. Running both a cattle and sheep enterprise on land that is over 1000ft altitude, the family have long been interested in the role that shelter plays in the farming part of the business. Different generations have all developed shelter woods on the farm and Andrew is interested in the management of pastoral woodlands and how they integrate with grassland management.

Will Simonson – Will is Head of Research at the Organic Research Centre. With research experience in forest ecology at the University of Cambridge he also leads ORC’s agroforestry research programme. He was previously at a Cambridge based NGO working in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation using ecosystem-based approaches, including collaboration with The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Current and recent research at ORC is exploring the benefits of hedgerows, shelter belts and in-field trees for system resilience in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, including through the EU-funded AGROMIX project ( ORC also leads the ELM test: Designing an Environmental Land Management system for UK agroforestry (

What does a dietitian have to do with farming?

Hosted by Rosa Holt.

This session covered three areas:

  1. What I do as a dietitian to advocate and inspire sustainability by supporting local producers.
  2. My work on the committee of the British Dietetic Association Sustainability Group and the wider aims of the group.
  3. The changes I’ve introduced to the farm since beginning my MSc in Organic Farming, including starting a new enterprise raising turkeys for Christmas on a silvopasture system.


Rosa Holt is the food and farming dietitian. She is a registered dietitian, fascinated by nutritional science and agroecology. She focuses on nutritional quality, provenance and environmental sustainability to create positive changes. She aims to encourage and practice meaningful action to create sustainable and resilient land use, to achieve coherent farming and food production while improving agricultural, environmental and public health.

Implementing agroforestry with native cattle as part of a healthy agro-ecosystem

Hosted by Nikki Yoxall, grazier, Aberdeenshire.

This session highlighted the benefits to the farm ecosystem that integrating livestock and trees can bring. We shared how we have brought together native cattle and on farm woodland to reduce the need for supplements, enable outwintering of cattle and promote positive animal health and welfare. Using Holistic Management has enabled us to manage for both wildlife and, diversity and cattle health.

The session reviewed the work we currently undertake as graziers and explored how the approach could be scaled up and adopted across the agriculture sector and how that affects the contribution it makes as a key component of the biosphere.


Nikki and her husband James run a small farm and grazier business in NE Scotland. They raise cattle and poultry in a low input system utilising agroecological principles. Nikki has a role with the Pasture Fed Livestock Association as Research Coordinator, supporting knowledge exchange in the context of pasture fed livestock.

Facilitating a transition to regenerative livestock farming in the North

Hosted by the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association.

This session highlighted two examples of farmer groups that are encouraging a transition to more regenerative farming practices. Attendees gained an insight into the challenges of running farmer groups and how further successes may be achieved in other regions in the UK, as well as learning first hand from farmers that are pioneering new approaches in the Cumbrian uplands.


Jimmy Woodrow is primarily responsible for growing the market for Pasture for Life products through building public awareness of the PFLA’s activities and developing pasture-fed supply chains. In addition, he is leading on the PFLA’s upcoming ten-year strategy. Jimmy started his career in corporate finance and has recently spent seven years in a range of senior roles within the food industry, including at Neal’s Yard Dairy and GAIL’s Bakery. He is now freelancing and focused on the financing and development of agroecological supply chains.

Sam Beaumont is a farmer at Gowbarrow Hall Farm near Ullswater and recently started the Wilder Gowbarrow project, a hybrid between regenerative agriculture and rewilding. He has a herd of Shorthorn cattle, Kune Kune pigs and fell ponies. The beef enterprise became certified pasture-fed last year, and beef is sold direct nationwide. He has also been the PFLA Cumbria upland group co-ordinator for nearly 2 years, organising a range of events from farm visits, to talks/ seminars.

Danny Teasdale set up the Ullswater Catchment Management CIC, after the storms of 2015 ravaged the county of Cumbria and, in particular, the village of Glenridding. In an effort to help improve flood resilience and prove it possible to restore nature in a way that complements sustainable farming, the CIC was created, and now has a proven track record of delivering real projects and facilitating groups.

Garry Miller is a farmer from Penruddock, near Ullswater and keeps sheep, cattle, chickens and pigs. He is a member of both the PFLA Cumbria Upland group and Danny Teasdale’s Ullswater Catchment group, and has recently been using rotational grazing and both planting and laying hedges in order to improve his farming system.

Nicola Renison is from near Renwick, Cumbria, where she farms with her husband, Paul. They are pioneering many regenerative approaches to farming their sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens and host farm visits, including one for the PFLA Cumbria group. Nicola is also the knowledge exchange manager for the AHDB and is part of the team organising Carbon Calling Festival, set to take place in Cumbria in June 2021.

Julia Aglionby is the Chair of the Cumbria Inquiry for the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. Julia is Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land, Chair of the Uplands Alliance, a practicing Rural Chartered Surveyor and Agricultural Valuer and a Professor in Practice at the University of Cumbria. Julia was a Board Member of Natural England from 2014 – 2019. She has worked as an environmental economist on National Park Management in Indonesia and the Philippines. Julia’s PhD research was at Newcastle University Law School and her thesis was entitled Governance of Common Land in National Parks: Plurality and Purpose. Julia lives in the Eden Valley, Cumbria with her family on an organic Care Farm of which she is a Trustee – Susan’s Farm CIO – where she enjoys practical farm work at the weekends.

Cow-with-Calf Dairying: a survival strategy for the family farm?

Hosted by David Finlay, Cream O’Gallaway and other experts.

Many dairy farmers are looking for alternative production methods and markets in a ‘less but better’ model, that allows them to have control over the way they farm; their work life balance and the future of their business. One such system which is being trialled by a small number of farmers in the UK is ‘Cow with calf’ dairying which involves keeping dairy calves with their mothers for the first months of life. As part of a knowledge transfer and innovation fund project in Scotland, a team of scientists are working with a cow with calf farm to look at the economic, environmental, social and animal health and welfare aspects of this system. What are the challenges and benefits and could a cow with calf system work for your farm?


Gordon Whiteford has been a first generation farmer at Lower Mill of Tynet Farm on the Fochabers Crown Estate since 2012, in the heart of Morayshire, Scotland. He was brought up on a dairy farm in Ayrshire but didn’t get the opportunity to take on the family farm.  Gordon studied Agriculture at SAC Auchincruive and laterally farm business management at SAC Craibstone.  After a couple of years in farm management he started his own business, Highland Eggs, in 2005.  Gordon rented a small field and erected a hen shed to produce organic eggs for Glenrath Farms. He now farms an organic mixed farming operation on 160Ha comprising of arable, cattle, sheep and eggs which is packed through his own packing shed.  Recently a micro dairy was added keeping cows with calves and retailing the milk through a vending machine.  Gordon is Vice chairman of Scottish Organic Producers Association.

David Finlay spent ten years as a farm consultant before returning home to farm our 340ha tenanted dairy, beef and sheep farm in 1987 at first intensifying then converting to organic in 1999. He started their diversification businesses – ice-cream manufacture and a family playground/visitor attraction – in 1994. They built a new dairy complex for 130 milkers in 2009 – 2012, experimenting with cow-with-calf dairying over the 2012/13 winter. He walked away from that licking his wounds but returned to it in autumn 2016 and have been working to develop a viable system since then. They opened their new cheese dairy in autumn 2019 trading as ‘The Ethical Dairy’, selling 90% of our cheeses direct to customers online.

Prof Sigrid Agenas is trialling a cow-with-calf system at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden and brings another perspective on the system.

Dr Orla Shortall is a social scientist at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen. Orla’s research interest is farmer decision making and understanding processes of change within agricultural systems. Orla’s current research focuses on indoor, high input and grass based dairy sectors in the UK and Ireland in a project called ‘Cows eat grass, don’t they?’ and animal health management in the dairy and beef sectors, in EU and Scottish government funded projects, as well as involvement in the “Keeping Cow with Calf – Bringing Innovation to Scottish Dairying” Project.

Dr Holly Ferguson is a Precision Dairying Scientist based at SRUC’s Dairy Research and Innovation Centre in Dumfries. Holly has a background in metabolic diseases of cattle and sheep, involving the use of precision technologies for early disease detection. Some of her current work includes coordinating the KTIF project entitled “Keeping Cow with Calf – Bringing Innovation to Scottish Dairying”, working on several projects looking at innovative dairying systems across Europe, the use of precision livestock farming (PLF) tools for improved health, welfare and production and the use PLF tools to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas production.

What could your dung beetles be doing for you?

Hosted by Ali Birkett, Lancaster Environment Centre with experts and farmers.

A healthy dung beetle population is a small army working for free on behalf of the livestock farmer. They are estimated to be saving the UK cattle industry alone ~£367 million each year* by breaking down muck pats, taking food and breeding habitat from parasites, and returning lost nutrients back into the soil. This is in addition to being food for farmland bats and birds themselves. A win for farmers and nature.

In this session we visited two livestock farms in both conventional and conservation sheep and cattle farming settings to hear directly from the farmers – Bruce Thompson and Sally-Ann Spence respectively – about what their dung beetles are doing for them and see what they in turn are doing to help to support their dung beetle workforce. With a general overview of dung beetles in the north from Ali Birkett, a demonstration of how to check on your own dung beetle population with Cumbrian farmer Tonia Armer and an open Q&A with our dung beetle experts, this engaging session equipped participants to employ a happy dung beetle workforce of their own!


Sally-Ann Spence is a Fellow of both the Royal Entomological Society and the Linnaean Society and an Honorary Associate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. She specialises in dung beetles and pastureland biodiversity and founded the UK Dung Beetle Mapping Project accumulating species data. Her work with the project has seen her surveying field sites all over the UK including many outlying islands enabling her to study a multitude of grazing systems. This practical experience has been translated into collaborative projects working on sustainable land management plans within the farming community to promote dung beetles as important bio-indicators for soil, pasture and livestock health. She also owns and runs an educational research centre ‘Berrycroft Hub’ based on her family farm where she keeps PFLA accredited livestock and manages all the grassland. As a passionate advocate of British farming and biodiversity, Sally-Ann does a great deal of scientific public outreach both at her centre on the farm, at various events and on all media platforms including television.

Bruce Thompson is a Spring calving dairy farmer operating an intensive, low cost grass based system with 250 cows. He has adapted novel grazing techniques to significantly reduce anthelmintics in tandem with increasing his beetle populations to reduce parasite loadings on his pastures. With this as his topic, Bruce has received a Nuffield scholarship and has so far travelled around Southern Australia and Tasmania to research beetles.

Ali Birkett has a background in ecological research, particularly studying how northern upland dung beetles are affected by land use and climate change. She now works at Lancaster Environment Centre helping scientists share the findings of their research and is especially interested in two-way knowledge exchange between farming and research.

Tonia Armer has been involved in the family beef and sheep farm for nearly 40 years. She is keen on trying to ensure the farm is nature-friendly as well as profitable.

You can read a blog post of the session outcomes here.

Links to the dung beetle videos shared in the session:

Sally-Ann Spence video.

Bruce Thompson video.


Moving a flerd long distance

Hosted by the Hillcrest Farm Project and 3LM.

Moving livestock across large transects of land can be challenging, but is often a reality faced by farmers who have parcels of land that are spread out. Don’t let obstacles stop you from doing holistic planned grazing. There is always a solution.

In this session, Bracken Morris shared his experience of moving a flerd (a flock of sheep combined with a herd of cattle) at Hillcrest Farm in North Yorkshire through two dales, including a wood, to return to the start of the grazing pattern.

Bracken talked about the simple solution he devised which only requires two people and one good dog. He uses his intuitive knowing about livestock behaviour to guide him in devising a solution that has worked well and stood the test of time.

He always asks the question, ‘What would nature do?’ and thinks through the move from the animal’s point of view.

There was plenty of time to ask questions about livestock handling, livestock behaviour and low stress animal husbandry.

The session will address:

• Farm and food system resilience in times of crisis and climate change
• Sustainable transition to regenerative farming
• Farmers’ health and well-being
• Diversity and inclusivity in northern farming and food production
• Innovative or ancestral agricultural and pastoral practices
• Soil health and regeneration
• Nature friendly farming

We hope to give attendees the confidence to give it a go, with a few pointers to get them thinking, so they can come up with their own ways of moving animals that suits their situation.


Bracken Morris’ interest in, growing knowledge and understanding of animal behaviour began as a very young child. He learnt much from his father who bred horses and, aged 7, started successfully breeding linnets. He is a first generation farmer who bought his first cow at 18 and now has dogs, sheep and goats. He has been fortunate to have met and spent time with people who have many years of experience with animals and have been willing to share with him their knowledge. Bracken is a big advocate of being among the animals, observing and building a relationship with them. His greatest guide is nature.

Sheila Cooke is the lead Director for 3LM, which acts as the Savory Institute hub for the UK and Ireland. As a Savory Institute Field Professional, she educates and advises farmers and business leaders in Holistic Management; a framework which informs high-quality decision-making, by providing people with the insights and management tools needed to work with a full awareness of nature. She holds an MBA in international business, and a BA in sociology/anthropology, and worked in international business for twenty years, including 5 years as a general manager in Japan. This was followed by a career as a facilitator and educator which led her to become a customer of 5 Deep Limited in 2011. She is a qualified trainer for the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Chicago, and developed and facilitated courses at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN) in Rome. Sheila is really inspired by 3LM’s network of producers, brands and retailers, professionals, and consumers who seek, through constant innovation, to change the paradigm of farming from extractive to regenerative.

You can read a blog post about the session outcomes here.