Johnny Haimes finishes cattle from Cat Frampton and Russell Retallick on a 100% pasture fed diet at West Sherford Farm and Saltram Park on the edge of Plymouth. Johnny’s West Sherford farm is a wonderful example of the speed at which ecosystems can come back to life when managed under regenerative principles. As the cattle are moved around under a mob grazing system, through winter they are followed by a dozen or more cattle egrets which pick out worms and insects that are disturbed by the livestock. Hundreds of starlings, fieldfares and pied and grey wagtails also move with the animals, feeding on grass seed and invertebrates.
The cattle are moved to a new paddock every day, often not returning to the same spot for up to five months, in which time the herb rich leys grow long and tussocky providing abundant pollen and nectar through summer and perfect shelter for all sorts of birds and insects through the year. Walking through the fields on a winter’s day will turn up dozens of snipe and send brown hares zig zagging across fields at break neck speed. Overhead, kestrels look out for the voles and mice that seek shelter in the long tussocks of cocksfoot.
It is remarkable how quickly this biodiversity has bounced back. 3 years ago Johnny took over the farm from his parents and moved it from conventional management into a regenerative grazing system, planting herb rich leys across the farm and moving the livestock every day in a single group of 150 head of cattle. This means that each parcel of land sees short bursts of activity – just 24 hours when the cattle eat, trample and defecate their way across the sward – followed by long periods of rest and recovery. The process has bought biological life back to the soils and invertebrate life back to the sward, which in turn has attracted the birds and mammals seeking food and shelter on the farm. And as the soil health improves, the cattle grow faster and healthier every year, making the farm business as sustainable as the land use.