Carbon dating is a service that connects livestock farmers who want land with arable farmers who want stock.
Carbon dating is a service that connects livestock farmers who want land with arable farmers who want stock. It was set up by sheep and beef consultant Liz Genever with the aim of helping build carbon levels in arable soils. We speak a livestock grazier and an arable farmer who were paired up by the service to find out how it works.
William and Sarah Haire run a small beef and sheep farm near Sandringham, Norfolk. They had been looking for a local farm where they could graze their livestock when they heard about Carbon Dating.
With full-time jobs outside the farm – Mr Haire is head of estate at Easton College and his wife is head of agriculture at Dawn Meats/Dunbia – their time was limited.
They needed a farmer who would be willing to check the sheep for them each day. More than that, they wanted a fruitful working relationship, rather than simply a place to graze their sheep.
Farm facts: Hillview Farm, Hillington, Norfolk
“The idea is we help them achieve their objectives and they help us achieve ours.”The key for us is to find likeminded people,” says Mr Haire. It’s about coming at this with a fresh set of eyes and thinking about what’s in it for us as opposed to what’s in it for me".
Having identified Nathan Nelson, 25 minutes away in Burnham Deepdale, as a potential grazing partner, it took at least a year of planning and discussion to reach the point of moving the ewes to his farm.
“Our ‘first date’ was at our place and then we went and looked at what they were doing and got an understanding of that,” says Mr Haire.
The Haires hope this is the start of an ongoing partnership. They have talked to Mr Nelson about the possibility of buying some organic ewes to lamb and graze permanently at Deepdale Farm. First, they need to see how the relationship works out, how the soil and the crops respond and how the ewes perform. The ewes will return to Hillview Farm to lamb in March.
The arable farmer
Following years of intensive arable production on light, stony soils, Deepdale Farm has converted to organic production and adopted a range of regenerative practices. The introduction of sheep to the farm completes the improvement measures.
Farm facts: Deepdale Farm, Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk
“This rehabilitation approach – and the reason we’re in organic conversion – is because our soils are exhausted from intensive production of winter wheat, carrots, potatoes and maize,” says estate manager Nathan Nelson.
“Soil tests revealed organic matter levels of just 2.5% and a lack of soil aggregates,” he explains. “We saw this playing out in 2020, with soil washed off the fields [during winter flooding].”
The whole farmed area – 265ha – is now in Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship. This includes 20 5ha cropped plots managed under a five-year rotation of cereals, a break crop and a two-year clover ley.
Source: Written by Judith Tooth 28 January 2022 for Farming Weekly. Read the full article here: How carbon ‘dating’ service connects graziers with grazing land