Farmers helping other farmers
Carbon Calling conference 2023 – session 4
Footage of Stuart Johnson, 2023 ‘Soil Farmer of the Year’, and dairy farmer and Nuffield Scholar Bruce Thompson speaking at Carbon Calling 2023 about farming regeneratively, reducing inputs, keeping the farm business profitable, and all things dung beetle related!
Stuart Johnson’s family-run farming business in the Tyne Valley, Northumberland, has 540 acres which has been long-term regeneratively farmed. They are now predominantly beef and livestock farmers. 12 years ago, they were very high input, and focused on maximising output, breeding the best and growing the most… Soil health wasn’t considered much. Changes made were largely down to financial reasons with business resilience being key. They are still producing high quantities of produce but have a very different mindset and much more holistic approach. He speaks about why they changed and how change came about.
Bruce Thompson explains his interest in dung beetles was initially driven by looking at anthelmintic resistance on his farm. He talks about parasite management (rather than control), and how he changed his approach, developing a “traffic light grazing system,” mapping risks of grazing the pasture throughout the year, and moving cows regularly. He explains how he decides when and how much to dose, and how he goes about not breeding resistant parasites on the farm.
Findings & recommendations
- Grazing animals down tight is going to lead to more ingestion of parasites.
- Doing your own faecal egg counting on the farm will help your decision making and help identify which paddocks are potentially getting contaminated more than others.
- Dung beetles are “Nature’s recyclers.” They bring many benefits to farmers – they dry dung pats (making them more attractive to earthworms), promote better nutrient recycling and soil aeration, provide a “transport service” for beneficial mites, and numerous benefits to the environment – including providing a food source for bats, birds, foxes, and badgers. To find out more about dung beetles, see this information hub.
- Stuart Johnson’s “thoughts I never thought I’d have”:
- Yes, I look at dung beetles now
- Let’s plant trees in the middle of this field…
- Can’t wait to get my microscope out
- The more herbs in this mix the better
- Barley at 2 t/ha is no longer a disaster
- Yes, sheep can actually be enjoyable (lambing indoors and feeding them all winter didn’t sit well with him. Now he doesn’t feed them any concentrate and lambs outside, and he finds it much more rewarding and enjoyable).