Regenerative Agriculture - small, measured steps  

I am no expert on regenerative farming systems, however I’m attempting to quickly learn. Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that seek to restore and enhance the farm’s entire ecosystem by placing a heavy premium on soil health and more. 

Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming that improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. 

So where do sheep fit in? Mixed farming is the way forward for many of us, and introducing systems such as rotational grazing and cover crops improve soil structure and health. In turn, these approaches result in higher quality yields and a richer, more natural environment without the need for purchased inputs such as concentrate feed and artificial fertilisers, together with reduced pesticides and herbicides. 

Furthermore, sheep have a minimal carbon footprint, and carbon neutrality is a real option for many of us as we incorporate sequestering woody vegetation to offset on-farm emissions. This can be done sensibly whilst adding value to the farm infrastructure and its ecosystem, and producing high quality, nutrient-dense food. And while output is often reduced there is frequently a healthier bottom line. 

Whilst there are many unanswered questions and a whole raft of research work needed before we fully understand the regenerative approaches we are being encouraged to use, I suggest we best start making progress since our antipodean counterparts are forging already ahead on this path. Small, measured steps.

Innovis CEO, Dewi Jones


Meeting the challenge of sustainable sheep farming – Innovis geneticist Janet Roden

 

Breeding sheep—an important part of the solution

It’s quite clear that sheep will play an important part in helping us meet the sustainability challenges we all face over the next few decades, whether it is by providing high quality protein from upland and hill grazing, by maintaining the landscapes and biodiversity we value, by improving soil quality and weed control in arable rotations or by playing their part in achieving Net Zero by 2040.  But how do we breed sheep that are up to these challenges?


Lighter more efficient ewes—a win-win for you and the environment

A hefty chunk of the feed we produce for our flocks is used to maintain the ewes.  A flock of 500 80kg ewes will eat 70 tonnes more dry matter in a year than a flock of 500 65kg ewes.

In our maternal lines, such as the Aberfield and the Highlander, we are consistently improving lamb growth rates and muscling while maintaining, or even reducing, ewe weight (currently 65-70kg).   This means that we see a steady increase in the weight of lamb weaned for every kilogram of ewe that is maintained on the farm, leaving more margin for the producer and reducing the carbon footprint of the farm. 

 


Bred to finish on grass - less days on farm

Our focus has always been on breeding sheep that will thrive and perform on forage based systems and leave a healthy return for our customers. The ideal sheep to meet this criteria also ticks most of the boxes for a sheep that will help meet the sustainability challenges of the future.   All our sheep are managed and measured on forage based systems so that we can identify the genetics that will consistently perform without concentrate feeding.

Genetic improvement in our meat sire lines over the years means that we expect lambs to be on farm 9-10 days less than they were five years ago—another win-win for reducing costs and contributing to lower methane emissions.


Innovis sheep are already working in Regenerative farming systems around the country, see what the farmers have to say

Ben Chaplin, Boughton Farming, Northamptonshire


Alex Brewster, Rotmell Farm, Perthshire


Hugh Darbishire, Southam, Warwickshire


Bleddyn Davies, Blaenglowon, West Wales


Fred Love, Nottinghamshire


Olly Matthews, South West, England


Dafydd Jones, Caerberllan, North Wales


Our new team member Ben Strange can work with you to build a regenerative farming system

Ben Strange joins the team as our regional sales adviser in Eastern England and his role will also have a specific focus on regenerative farming and introducing sheep in to arable systems.

Ben has a very diverse background in both the sheep and arable sectors, starting at a local beef and arable farm as a teenager to harvesting in the UK and in Australia as well as working in sheep flocks in Wales.

After graduating from Aberystwyth university in 2015 with a degree in Agri-Business, he has been the main operator at a 1200acre family farm and managing a flock of ewes and store lamb finishing enterprise in a mixed system which revolves around direct drilling, flexible crop rotations and incorporates regenerative farming practices.

Alongside the day job, Ben has also been working on developing his own flock of Welsh Mules and Aberfield Romneys which he crosses with the Primera terminal sire. The flock grazes rented grassland and cover crops at a nearby arable estate.

The increased green cover now seen in many arable rotations in the form of cover crops, stewardship grass and herbal leys can support healthy forage-based livestock, at the same time as improving soil structure and reducing weed burdens. Ben hopes that his strong first-hand practical experience of both the arable and sheep sectors will help him demonstrate the benefits of combining the two enterprises and looks forward to representing Innovis during these exciting times as many farm businesses adapt to environmental and economic changes and challenges.

If you would like to get in touch with Ben, give him a call on 07599 819339 or email benstrange@innovis.org.uk

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Contact Innovis

Email: enquiries@innovis.org.uk or complete our contact form

Innovis Ltd, Peithyll, Capel Dewi. Aberystwyth, Wales, UK SY23 3HU.

Tel.: 01970 828236

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