Livestock for landscapes
Emma’s Ewesful Acres, run by Emma Blomfield, is one of our Farm Step tenants. Her herds of sheep and cows can regularly be seen grazing the wildflower meadows, around Wittenham Clumps and the Earth Trust Farm, doing great work to enrich our landscape. Livestock play a vital role in our integrated farming system, not just for the purposes of food production and making up part of a nutritious diet, but as part of the land management practices that deliver soil quality, productivity and yield, and biodiversity.
The sheep have a vital job of clearing the dead flowers from the meadows at the end of the summer season so that the seeds reach the ground in Autumn/Winter, ready for germination.
- Sheep don’t have any top front teeth, so when they pull on grass and weeds to eat, they don’t pull out the roots of the plants. Leaving the roots in place make it possible for a plant to grow again.
- Grazing prevents more competitive grasses from dominating the meadow and so more delicate plant species can come through.
- Sheep have split hooves which break up the soil crust when they move around, allowing for gas/air interchange in the soil and non-grass species to thrive.
- Their poop improves soil structure, helps regenerate the soil, and is an effective source of nutrients, including organic nitrogen, needed for growing plants.
Cows help us to diversify the habitat, encouraging a greater diversity of insects and wildflowers.
- Being non-selective grazers means that they eat a bit of everything – and leave a bit of everything! They’ll eat coarser grasses and even woody species like hawthorn, helping to keep scrub under control.
- Cow saliva is also good for plants as a chemical in it boosts regrowth.
- Rather than nibbling or biting, cattle wrap their tongues around the grass and tear it. This means that instead of producing a short and even sward like sheep, they produce tussocks: clumps of grass which form a much more uneven surface. This kind of grassland is great for invertebrates and small mammals like mice and voles. In turn, these support birds of prey such as owls and kestrels – so the whole food chain benefits.
An advocate of responsible farming and a reciprocal relationship with the land
Surrounded by lush wildflower meadows and thick hedgerows, Emma is passionate about working with nature to produce high quality meat, traditionally reared in a sustainable way.
Working together with her vet, Emma keeps her flock healthy with preventative medicines, using less chemicals, rather than anti-biotics, and natural remedies are her go to approach. Sheep are known to self-medicate when given the opportunity. If they have an upset stomach they will graze on specific plants that help cure them. Access to a wildflower meadow is like providing a local pharmacy!
Emma prides herself on keeping up to date with the latest developments in this area and is a member of the Pastures for Life Association which promotes holistic farm management. Through this association, farmers can visit each other’s sites, share ideas and knowledge.
Emma is one of 25,000 women who run farms in the UK and, remarkably, manages her flock on her own (with the help of her trusty sheep dogs!). Earth Trust’s Land Management team help with maintenance and repairs but she pretty much does everything else herself. As a solo female farmer, Emma prides herself in rearing happy animals with minimal intervention, protecting the natural habitat they freely roam amongst.
“It’s hard work, long hours, and it won’t make you rich! But, the rewards are immense,” she tells us. “The satisfaction of seeing your animals grow and thrive, seeing the positive impacts they’ve had on the land (we see more orchids now than ever) and hearing customers say how they’re enjoying the product, being able to buy quality meat from a local, sustainably farmed source, makes it all worth it.”
Emma’s beef and lamb is 100% grass-fed, sustainably reared and sold. She has won a number of awards and is shortlisted this year for the Great British Food Awards 2022.
Emma sells the meat she produces locally, at Farmer’s Markets, and direct to customers with a home delivery service. Find out more at https://www.emmasewesfulacres.com/
We work closely with our Farm Step Tenants to manage the areas grazed, the number of animals grazing, and how long they stay in each area. The partnerships rely on understanding where Earth Trust can add value to farming businesses, and how those same businesses can benefit our green spaces. From the richness of the soil beneath our feet to the birds of prey soaring overhead, visiting Earth Trust would be a very different experience without our Farm Step Tenants.