The Black family from Backboath near Forfar will share the latest findings from their regenerative farming journey at an open day next month.
They say they have maintained profitability and improved soil health after introducing sheep to their arable rotation while taking part in the Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group (SRAG), which is working alongside Farming For a Better Climate to establish how best to support, enhance and protect farm soils.
Hugh and James Black’s arable business extends to just under 400 hectares and produces predominantly potatoes, winter wheat, winter barley and oilseed rape.
There is no spring cropping on the farm, other than potatoes and some spring beans, and they operate a seven-year rotation, with three breaks, recently adding beans into the mix.
“The sheep give us a new income, we save on chemical usage and there is no need for a T0 spray, as the sheep eat everything,” he said.
“We will take anything from between 250 to 850 sheep annually and we move them on, between fields, when they graze everything down to the bone. We thought there might be an issue with poaching, but we have been very lucky that no crops have ever been lost.
“Since having the sheep, we are able to drive over all the fields without leaving a mark.
“They compact the ground on a surface level which makes it brilliant for springtime nitrogen applications and this follows though into harvest too.”
SAC consultant Zach Reilly, who leads on the work with the SRAG, said: “For Hugh, everything has been about striking a balance between improving yields, protecting his soils, while maintaining profitability. Alongside the sheep, he has seen huge benefits from direct drilling and introducing beans to his rotation as a break crop for wheat.”
Farmers and growers are invited to see the results for themselves at the free
event at Backboath on February 9. Discussions will cover topics including crop establishment, agronomy choices and integrating livestock.
For more information and to register visit farmingforabetterclimate.org/about-us/events/