We asked dairy farmers Mr and Mrs Lister, who run a dairy business on 500 acres at Farndon in Cheshire, to tell us about measures they have undertaken on the farm in recent years which are already benefitting farmland birds and other wildlife. A half hectare plot of bird seed mix was established in the Autumn of 2011 as part of their Entry Level Stewardship agreement on land sown for wholecropped wheat, and the scheme also included some beetle banks between cropped areas and newly established wide grass margins along hedgerow boundaries and the woodland edge. Three years ago they also created 4 acres of extra woodland with the aim of adding some diversity to the farm habitat on land that wasn’t suitable for production.
Initially we were motivated by points for the scheme but as we have noticed the benefits to birds already, we are starting to realise how important the bird feeding and overwintering areas are. We have definitely seen more birds around our bird seed areas, and this has been confirmed by a local volunteer surveyor who does bird counts on the land. We have also been astonished by the increase in insects and butterflies the grass buffer strips. In the future we would definitely consider growing more areas of bird seed mixes, as we feel some responsibility to help try to reverse the decline in farmland birds on our farm. However we are an intensive dairy farm and those measures have to fit in with our system. So far we’ve been able to do by using less productive land and incorporating sown strips into our cropping or re-seeding rotation.
Chris Lister of Sibbersfield Lane Farm, Farndon.
Since starting the ELS we have also voluntarily sown a nectar and pollen strip last year as an experiment, which hopefully will be of benefit, but we know it can be notoriously difficult to establish and manage well. The event today provided some useful information about how best to get this area performing as it should.