Ben Goldsmith joins the Defra Board – look out Dartmoor!

Ben Goldsmith is a well known environmentalist, he is the son of James and Annabel Goldsmith and brother of Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP for Richmond Park. He has recently been appointed to the Defra Board. He is also a financial supporter of the Tory group of modernisers known as the Notting Hill set, which includes Michael Gove MP and Secretary of State for the Environment as a member.

This series of tweets about Dartmoor may give us an insight into some of the thinking currently taking place within Defra.

 So is this what ‘public money for public goods’ looks like or we might be going to see some rewilding too?

7 thoughts on “Ben Goldsmith joins the Defra Board – look out Dartmoor!

  1. Ben Goldsmith should have been at the Dartmoor Farming futures this afternoon on management of Dominating Molinia!
    Baroness Young and Elliott Morley were responsible for taking 80% of the stock from the Moor 25 years ago! Baroness Young told me last year at a London meeting that she had not wanted 80% Cattle taken off Dartmoor nor in the Winter. There is no scientific evidence for this and she urged me todo research !
    The Galloways sent down from Scotland after the war as well as Blue Greys ( x Shorthorn) , Red Devons and Highland are made to stand hard winters outside. Even Knepp Castle have found great advantage in letting their Longhorns outside in Winter on the Sussex clay. Isobella Tree wrote about the importance of different stock grazing together . Thousands of years ago the wild horses with capacity for eating rough grass and browsing branches as they still do in New Forest followed by Aurochs ( now Moorland cows!) to follow which kept our wood pasture open. So it had been for past years on Dartmoor with Cattle and ponies grazing with sheep.
    In 1900 the whether lambs went onto the Moor in Winter and not only provided wool but mutton legs of lamb for the Inns of Court where barristers ate their dinners . Hogget was a delicacy! The Whethers have a well known reputation for devouring Molinia ( unlike ewes that know they need higher protein grasses for milk suckling lambs and with the many horned cattle would have kept Molinia and Nardus grasses down to less than 30% . The Oxford research on the S. Scottish hills showed after 6 years with out wintered grazing especially with spring calving sucker cows reduces Molinia to less than 30% . ( confirmed by Dr Fraser IBERS) .Harder grazing and less Molinia. Interestingly both Knepp Castle , Richard Fullers Suckler Beef book and Christopher Evans on Plynlimon have found that Suckler Cows after weaning in October on deferred grazing can use their fat initially in Winter months to graze with Crystallix blocks , with mineral bollus or mineralised cattle cobbs to clear last years Molinia growth with a feed value of straw. 6 to 8 weeks before calving cows can have an increase in diet with hay, if bad weather,that could be stored on sheltered quarriies to save making tractor tracks in wet ground.
    Pasture for life is dependant on an all grazing or Haylage diet which provides the healthiest Omega 3 and Omega 6 balance. Which assists cancer risk and diabetes. Of course the taste of the well marbled beef from Upland herds can bring discerning shoppers back for more. ( UK has the biggest demand for best cuts of beef in the EU)
    However after U.K. joined the EU there was a beef mountain in Europe which may have accounted for removal of our hefted Upland cows ! In 2016 we imported 163000 tons of beef from Eire. We exported 33000 tons of mainly cull cows to Eire which came back as mostly processed ( beef Burgers? ) 34000 tons!
    Meanwhile our local abattoirs are facing enormous competition from Ango Irish subsidised building of enormous industrial abattoirs in the U.K. Which means stock are often transported miles before slaughter!
    Geoff Eyre has re seeded 100,000s of Acres of Molinia and Carcinogenic Lyme disease spreading bracken. His methods and those of hill Farming contractors in Wales can re seed to heather or deep rooted rain absorbing fetukalolium with hill grasses and clover. Or marsh cotton grass . Much of the lower hills used to be limed which helps establishment of grass seeds and now with modern drills that cultivate the top 2 ins of even stony ground. There were examples sent by Geoff to the Dartmoor Farming futures for the event today.
    Last Year Oliver Colvile MP wrote to George Eustice about over wintering cattle on Dartmoor uplands and Commons. George wrote supporting the work of Dartmoor Farming futures which is helping to find the best way forward. He said ” the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund partnerships also provides a good opportunity for farmers to work together and lead the way. ”
    In another letter sent in April 2017 DEfra said Natural England would look favourably at outwintering cattle on Moorland particularly where Molinia dominance could be addressed. It would want to insure that a sustainable number of native breeds of cattle could be kept and that they would not require additional amounts of Winter feed.
    Both the vice Chair of the Dartmoor Coomomers committee and another member who keeps galloways inside in Winter said that the former head age payments had encouraged herds that were too large but if herds of up to 30 could be reintroduced to the Moor in Winter it would greatly reduce the pressure on in bye land which can produce poaching problems by tributaries that run through the in bye land . It is suggested in Richard Fullers book on profitable Suckler beef that medium sized cattle will be more profitable than large continental or Holstein cross breeds. With in wintering costs up to £500 per cow for inwintering sheds compared to £100 for outwintering on the hill removing Molinia and trampling bracken and being helped by ponies to brows gorse there appears little choice for farmers.
    If Ben could research beavers on fast flowing tributaries and planting trees in buffer strips as are being trialled at North Wyke it’s possible to bring back Dartmoor grazing areas that like the hilll above Dartmeet would win prizes again.

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