The rewarding road to profitable sustainability
Arla farmer Robert Kynaston has achieved rich biodiversity through 30 years of trial and error
Great Wollaston Farm
Shropshire, United Kingdom
Ever since Robert took over the farm over 30 years ago he has been experimenting with ways to encourage and increase its biodiversity. Among his many initiatives he grows certain crops in the spring, which gives birds like skylark and lapwing nesting cover, and he keeps thick grass margins around the edges of many of his fields. He explains, “It provides good habitat for insects and small mammals, for birds foraging and the brown hare get in this long grass as well.”
Sustainable farming is also about soil health
Robert’s herd of 85 cows is part of a mixed farming approach – grassland, arable crops and livestock. He says, “Integrated farm management is making all the farm work together. What I’ve tried to do is produce a farm that has good crop rotation so you’re building up soil health and soil fertility with the grass and the livestock.”
Growing his own protein feed also pays dividends.
“I’ve been advised that I would make more money putting it all down to grass and just specialising but I would lose all that diversity.”Robert Kynaston, Great Wollaston Farm
It all must go hand in hand
Nature and caring for nature’s resources is a natural part of a dairy farmer’s life and an integrated part of Arla’s sustainable dairy farming strategy.
Robert makes a point of trying something new every year to improve the farm’s environment, generally earmarking 4-5 hectares for an experiment. This represents 5-6% of the farm so failure is never a threat to the farm’s existence.
Taking out areas that are difficult to make productive and providing natural wildlife habitats instead can actually be financially beneficial. Streamlining the farm makes everything run more efficiently. Robert explains, “I tend to farm areas that are productive, farm them well, and not try and farm the marginal areas that perhaps don’t give me a very good return.”
Robert believes that there are three pillars in sustainable farming: environmental, economic and social. They are all important however as Roberts says, “If I go broke then the other two will never happen!”
Success through small steps
Robert’s farming philosophy has always been to define a clear goal and make lots of small steps in that direction. He says, “You don’t have to do one huge leap to get to an endpoint. It’s that vision of knowing where you want to be.”