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Farming matters: Lewis Barraclough - 'Farmers must shape environmental schemes in the future'

Managing the moor is an important task in these challenging times and our scenery is ever-changing, just like the weather around us.

As farmers and gamekeepers, we battle the weather to feed our hardy moor sheep and look after the grouse that roam the heather.

 

We are on the moor 365 days of the year, trying to improve the natural habitats around us, which then suggests we have the most knowledge of that ecosystem.

 

However, is this being used effectively to shape emerging environmental schemes?

 

We are currently in limbo between two moor schemes, with the last one ending in February 2020.

 

A new scheme led by Natural England has been drafted for 2021, but we have had no input in shaping this, or even a question asked about how we see the moor.

 

These new management schemes are now even stating which breeds of hill sheep we can run.

 

Cheviot sheep are being heavily penalised, with NE classing them as 1.1 livestock units, which is the same as a lowland ewe.

 

This, therefore, reduces the amount of sheep you can run on the moor. Furthermore, pure breed Cheviot sheep are to be removed altogether.


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On our stretch of heather moorland, we have both Cheviots and Swaledales.

 

Both breeds have their advantages and disadvantages, with the Swaledales coming into their own when they are drafted off the moor and the Cheviots leaving the most profit from lambs grazing the heather.

 

But we believe these sheep go hand in hand.

 

Change

 

For a Natural England representative to say the Cheviots are no longer welcome for completely unfounded reasons is a bitter pill to swallow.

 

Payment structures and new schemes do need to change and, as farmers going forward, we are going to have to rely on other sources of income which, in my opinion, could be for the better.

 

However, to single out a breed that leaves the most profit on the moor in these current times is wrong.

 

To get behind these new regulations we also get a serious drop in remuneration.

 

For us to comply or to be happy about the decisions being made would be an uphill struggle.

 

If Natural England schemes continue to follow this agenda, local names such as Reeking Gill, Shunner Howe and the Brier will all be lost replaced with land parcels.

 

As a 27-year-old farmer I am deeply passionate about a future of farming in the uplands and my hope is we can come to a mutual understanding and give young people a future in our area.

 

But to do this we must revisit the question of Cheviot sheep on the moor.

Definition of a Cheviot

Definition of a Cheviot

If you look up Cheviot sheep, the National Sheep Association says ‘while the Cheviot is originally from Scotland, the Brecknock Hill Cheviot is particular to the Brecknockshire area of Wales (hills)’.

 

This is a hill breed that is very hardy and long living, with their lineage and nature showing they belong in the uplands.

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