Combining out of doors pig rearing with planting pollinator strips has helped Suffolk-based Dingley Dell Pork elevate sow efficiency, assist the atmosphere and supply a advertising enhance for his or her direct gross sales enterprise.
Brothers Mark and Paul Hayward began their branded pig enterprise 15 years in the past and now maintain 930 out of doors sows, with all of the progeny completed open air, throughout 50ha of sunshine, sandy land close to the east coast.
See additionally: Wildlife-friendly farming might help carry again pollinators
“We noticed that every time we moved our pigs, we got a production boost – in terms of improved sow condition, prolonged lactation and better weaner weights,” defined Paul.
“So we developed a rotational system whereby we flip the paddocks every six months or so, rather than the more normal two years.”
Initially, this simply concerned planting grass and clover on the outdated floor. But for the final 4 years the Haywards have additionally included nectar-wealthy pollinator mixes to do the identical job, whereas offering meals for bees and butterflies.
In whole, there are 33ha of pollinators – together with phacelia, sainfoin, birds-foot trefoil, alsike clover, musk mallow, campium and vetch – grown in strips between the pig arcs. This ensures about half the sector is being rested, whereas the opposite half has pigs on it.
Typically, the mixes shall be planted in February or March, coming into full flower in June.
“We try to stagger planting, to ensure a longer flowering season, and may then top the strips, to give them a chance to flower again,” stated Paul.
“We will then flip the world and transfer the pigs onto it in late September or October.
“It costs no more to use pollinator mixes, and it still cleans the land and provides better root structure, plus it has the added benefit of providing food for insects.”
Good for bees
A latest insect depend carried out below the steerage of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust discovered there have been an estimated a million bees feeding at anyone time throughout the 33ha of mixes (see panel under).
“This was our target when we started – to grow enough to feed a million bees on a single day,” stated Mark.
“We are acutely conscious that bees are below risk from trendy farming strategies, and that East Anglia is among the worst offenders for bee foraging range.
“We wanted to create an operation on our farm that did not push nature out, but rather embraced it – as a central part of our ecosystem and our food cycle.”
Watch a drone video displaying the Million Bees Project made by Dingley Dell Pork and relaxation the remainder of the report under.
While the primary causes for introducing the pollinators had been to assist manufacturing and conservation, there was one other profit when it comes to buyer relations and advertising.
The firm distributes its excessive welfare pork often to eating places, delis and butchers throughout the South East, in addition to unsolicited mail orders, and has recently launched its Dingley Dell Cured range of charcuterie merchandise.
“It is amazing how little people know about farming, conservation and where there food comes from. But since we have been shouting about this, we have seen a real surge of interest from all manner of customers,” stated Paul.
“It gives them another reason to deal with us and definitely helps the business.”
The planting of insect-pleasant crops would additionally qualify for money below varied agri-atmosphere schemes, although the Haywards usually are not taking such funds on their Dingley Dell website.
‘Over a million bees’
Mark’s eldest daughter Grace, 18, has taken the lead on the “big bee count” – a part of a wider set of surveys below the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme.
The course of includes marking out a 1m sq patch of land utilizing a quadrat and counting first the variety of flowers after which the bees feeding on them over a one minute interval.
Each depend took about 15 minutes, carried out from 10.00am to 12.30pm – the time of most bee exercise.
Figures different relying on the kind of plant in every quadrat, ranging from two bees in a minute on an space of buckwheat to 19 bees in a minute on the phacelia.
Most plots attracted over 12 bees a minute and, as soon as these figures had been multiplied by the full space, the staff put the full depend at 1,186,300 bees over the 33ha..
Gill Perkins, CEO of the Bumblebee Trust, admitted the bees per sq. metre determine can take a little bit of “finessing”. There might also be a component of double counting.
“But even allowing for some extrapolating, the studies show that Dingley Dell is feeding at least one million bees at any one time,” she stated.