Michael and Lisa share their journey towards more regenerative farming.
We are a small family-run farm located in Bleasdale, in the Forest of Bowland AONB. We are third generation farmers who took over the running of the family dairy farm in 2013. The farm was a high-input, high-output dairy farm, milking the cows three times per day. By the end of 2020 we had expanded the herd to 180 cows. We were working all hours and were pushing the cows to produce litres of ‘white water’. We felt that the only beneficiary of this system was the supermarket we sold our milk to. We decided there must be another way.
In January 2021, we completed a three-month course in regenerative agriculture. This was our lightbulb moment. We realised that there was a different, more ‘natural’ way of doing things.
We did lots of research about low-input farming, sustainable food production and nutrition. Later that year, we visited the Ethical Dairy in Scotland and were impressed with how their system worked. They are a cow-with-calf dairy and raise their cows on a pasture-fed diet. Seeing how happy and healthy the calves looked being raised by their mothers, we both knew that this was how we wanted to run our dairy farm.
Our cows had been bred to give lots of milk and eat lots of bought-in feed. This was the total opposite of what we now wanted. We wanted cows that would raise their calves and be fed a 100% pasture diet with no grains or concentrates. (Milk from cows fed a 100% pasture diet has higher levels of desirable omega 3, vitamin E and antioxidants, and lower levels of undesirable omega 6).
We knew we had to sell all of our cows in order to make this change, and so we did in December 2021.
Earlier this year we purchased some Jersey cows. The cows are rearing their own calves instead of us removing them at birth like the majority of commercial dairy farms do. Our cows are milked once a day, after the calves have had their share. This raw milk will be processed in our on-site processing room, which is nearing completion. Simple artisan processes will turn it into delicious products, such as yoghurt, that we will sell directly to consumers.
We also have other animals on the farm.
We have a mixed flock of free-range laying hens that are moved around the farm onto fresh pasture. They have access to forage, exercise and a clean environment which makes for healthy hens that produce nutrient dense eggs.
We rear native rare-breed pigs in a more traditional manor than intensively farmed pigs. Our pigs are keen foragers and spend most of their day eating vegetation, roots and insects. They roam our rougher grassland areas to break up the vegetation with the hope of it giving more diverse flora. This natural foraging and plenty of space to roam creates a flavoursome meat – like pork is meant to be.
Our rare-breed Norfolk Black turkeys are also raised on pasture when they are old enough to go outside – around eight weeks old. They are moved around the farm onto fresh pasture and eat an abundance of fresh vegetation, just like the laying hens.
Our aim is simply to farm as naturally as we can – to use regenerative practices to increase soil health and build diversity whilst producing great tasting nutrient-dense food for local residents.
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Contact Michael and Lisa at email@example.com for more information.