Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Bracken Control with your feet up?

This post has been adapted from an original document produced by George Winn-Darley

A new type of cutting machine offers the opportunity to cut bracken by remote control. The equipment will be demonstrated by representatives of Brielmaier, a German company that supplies a range of machinery developed for cutting vegetation on steep slopes in the Alps. A range of videos, available on You Tube, provide a visual indication of the capability of this equipment.

The plan for the events is to demonstrate Brielmaier's remote control bracken cutting on all sites, and gorse cutting on some of them.  All interested farmers and land managers are welcome to attend.

In all cases access by 4x4 is fine and those arriving by car will be transported to the sites.

27th August
Ysgubor, Dinas Mawddwy, SY20 9LX (south-east of Dolgellau)
By kind permission of Dafydd and Mair Evans.  There will be no toilet facilities but refreshments should be available.

1st September
Carding Mill Valley
SY6 6JG (Long Mynd, west of Church Stretton)
By kind permission of the National Trust. Toilet facilities and refreshments will be available.

3rd September
Howe Gill, Lamplugh, West Cumbria CA14 4TY
By kind permission of Mr Richardson. There will be no toilet or refreshment facilities due to the remote location of the demonstration.

4th September
Barmoors, Hutton Le Hole, North York Moors, YO62 6UE
By kind permission of George Winn-Darley. There will be toilet and refreshment facilities available.

The cutting machines cost £20-30,000 but they are self-propelled and can be operated by someone walking behind them or even from nearby using remote controls.  Some of the machines can also mulch, if required, and other machines can rake the material down slopes to a point where it can be quickly handled and baled at the bottom.

Traditional uses for bracken include livestock bedding and as compost, but these tend to be small scale uses.  A larger scale and more cost effective use could be the production of bio-ethanol.  Freshly cut bracken yields 40-45 tonnes of plant material per hectare.  30,000 tonnes of fresh material would be required to run an ethanol plant producing green ethanol, and therefore 750ha would need to be harvested.  There is a strong demand for green ethanol from refineries who are under an obligation to blend at least 5% with other fuels, and this could provide enough income to make bracken harvesting a commercially viable exercise.

This equipment might not solve all the issues with cutting bracken, and this machinery will not suit a lot of rougher sites, but they will add another option to the tool kit.

Attendance: The demonstration events are open to all, but if you have any questions, please contact the organiser Jeremy Oakley 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Workshop: What’s up in the Uplands? Delivering Food & Ecosystem Services

Kirkton & Auchtertyre Research Farm, Crianlarich

The Challenge
What can be done to ensure the economic viability of upland farms so that they can continue to produce quality, sustainable food while delivering ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, flood regulation and maintaining biodiversity? Upland farmers today face pressures including changes to markets, support policies and the climate they are operating in. What should they be aware of ecologically and economically? What current practices could be reviewed and altered to address the pressures? How can upland farmers take advantage of the opportunities presented by an increasing focus on payments for ecosystem services?


Scotland’s Rural College, Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities lead the UK in developing and demonstrating best practice in upland livestock production systems. These organisations have come together to run a two-day training workshop on What’s up in the Uplands? Delivering Food Ecosystem Services at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, based at Kirkton & Auchtertyre upland research farms near Crianlarich, on 3rd and 4th September 2015


The workshop is particularly focused on upland farming systems and is relevant not only to farmers and their agricultural advisors but also to all those involved with regulating the farming industry or developing agri-environment measures. All of these target audiences need to be aware of and understand the challenges and opportunities facing upland farming systems if such systems are to be economically viable and continue to provide ecosystem service benefits to wider society.

The workshop will explore the environmental, social and economic viability of alternative upland farming systems in the UK, and will discuss challenges and opportunities associated with managing soil, moorlands, natural and cultivated grasslands, sheep and cattle in upland situations.

Leading specialists in their field from SRUC and Bangor will work with workshop attendees to enable them to learn, and discuss in detail, about: how uplands play a key role in providing a wide range of valuable ecosystem services; where greenhouse gas emissions come from on upland farms and how they can be reduced; how upland farmers have an important role to play in carbon sequestration and peatland restoration; how recent research advances can help improve the technical efficiency and economic viability of upland farming; the pros and cons associated heather burning; and how challenges and issues facing upland farms in the Scottish Highlands are relevant to upland farming systems across the UK. 

The workshop will also incorporate a visit to SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre Farms, to see the range of agricultural and environmental issues being addressed on the farms.

The workshop has been organised as part of an Advanced Training Partnership (ATP) in Sustainable and Efficient Food Production run by Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, NIAB TAG and BBSRC. The workshop will serve attendees either as a certified stand-alone Continual Professional Development (CPD) event or as an introduction to two ATP postgraduate distance learning modules on Upland Farming Systems and Ecosystem Services. 

The full fee for attendance at the workshop is £270. However, if an attendee is employed full time within the UK agri-food sector then then may qualify to receive a bursary to reduce the cost of attendance. Examples of sectors which qualify are: supermarket supply chain advisors, farmers and farm managers, agri-supplies, vets, agri-environmental advisors, agricultural consultants. We regret that those employed in publicly funded posts do NOT qualify for bursaries. Bursaries are awarded at the time of invoicing on a first-come-first-served basis.

More detail
Full details of the workshop, how to register and how to apply for bursaries can be found at the workshop's webpage. Email: atp-enquiries@aber.ac.uk and telephone: 01970 823 224

Sunday, 2 August 2015

GWCT - Best Practice Use of Medicated Grit

Photo: GWCT
This new guidance was launched at the CLA Game Fair, last Friday (31 July).  I recommend this guide as essential reading for anyone who is already using medicated grit, or is contemplating its use.

The guidance runs through the development history of medicated grit and highlights the two major concerns arising from the outstanding success of this technique: resistance to the current treatment through overuse, and the emergence of new diseases.  The need to assess worm burdens and deployment techniques are covered and the guidance concludes with a valuable best practice check list.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

HT at the CLA Game Fair

It was a good day at Harewood, yesterday, for the CLA Game Fair.  There was good representation from the organisations that we work with, and some we would like to work with.  As ever, the gathering of the clans provided an opportunity to catch up with people I have not seen for a while, for many years in some cases, and to exchange views about what has happened and what we would like to happen.

I attended the workshop in the Game Fair Theatre that assembled: Owen Paterson (former Sec of State for Environment), Mark Avery (former Conservation Director, RSPB), Philip Merricks (Farmer & Chairman, Hawk & Owl Trust) and Ian Coghill (Chairman, GWCT).  The topic for discussion was "Landowners and Wildlife: Friends or Foes?".  There was an interesting exchange of contrasting views:  Owen Paterson quoted 'when the state owns; nobody owns and, when nobody owns, nobody cares' and Mark Avery followed him by stating a wish for more public ownership of land.   Messrs Coghill and Avery sought to score points off each other, and Philip Merricks commented that the adversarial approach is ineffective and there is no alternative but to be friends.  In spite of these contrasting views, the discussion did not really take off, and we came away none the wiser.

From a Heather Trust perspective, I side with Philip Merricks.  We need dialogue and a commitment to move forward; brick throwing from silos will generate heat, but no light.  Owen Paterson proved that he is a loss to front bench politics.