Herbal leys, permanent pastures and meadows, opportunities for reducing feed costs in a conservation focussed business model

Following Jonty Brunyee’s talk at Herefordshire Meadows Forum in February we took up the offer of a visit and headed off to Conygree Farm, Aldsworth, Glos on 10 July during the hottest week of the summer so far.

seed brush harvester                                     discussing meat box sales                   cattle grazing in dry pasture

Although most hay had been harvested there was plenty to see and discuss.  In the last 8 years flower rich meadows and pastures have been created and enhanced from arable land and species poor grassland. The farming system includes herbal leys with a wide variety of plants that looked well despite the drought conditions.  Pollen and nectar mixes, arable wildflower margins and wild bird seed mixes also looked well and we saw the cattle and sheep who thrive on this variety of deep rooted plants.

Jonty answered questions about the economics and practicalities of his pasture fed system, how he establishes and manages the crops and everything about the livestock through to meat sales and the added value that Pasture For Life brings in marketing the products. Every acre of the farm is in an agri-environment option and the farming system works well with the option prescriptions.

Seed for some of the agri-environment grassland options is provided by Cotswold seeds – and we noticed that many of the mixes contain plants that are not typical of Herefordshire grasslands.  Such mixes can be tailored to our local soil type and often work well in arable field margin, field corner, pollen and nectar and wild bird seed mix options.

However mixtures of local provenance wildflower species are generally better suited to grassland enhancement projects whether in or out of stewardship schemes.  It’s ideal to get hold of seed as close to home as possible. Jonty demonstrated a brush harvester that’s available to him for local hire. He’s used this successfully to harvest seed from the most species rich areas of the farm and to plant new areas and enhance others.  Plantlife’s Magnificent Meadows project has great information about meadow management including a useful leaflet on lessons learned collecting, storing and spreading seed 

Although Plantwild’s harvester now operates in East Anglia, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust also have a brush harvester (currently under repair) and we hope to have a hire system operating here in 2019. For further information and to express interest please contact Andrew Nixon or James Hitchcock