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Yorkshire Dales National Park. Area – 1,760 km 2 Resident population – 19,500 Nature conservation designations: SSSI – 500 km 2 (of which 400 km 2 is Natura 2000) Farming – 1,100 farm holdings with 900 full time farmers Tourism – 7.5 million day visits, 1.3 million staying visitors.

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Yorkshire Dales National Park

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yorkshire dales national park
Yorkshire Dales National Park
  • Area – 1,760 km2
  • Resident population – 19,500
  • Nature conservation designations: SSSI – 500 km2 (of which 400 km2 is Natura 2000)
  • Farming – 1,100 farm holdings with 900 full time farmers
  • Tourism – 7.5 million day visits, 1.3 million staying visitors

Project area

Project area of 11,100 ha covers the United Kingdom most important limestone region in the UK and includes 12 internationally important habitats (Natura 2000)

The range of habitats present includes the most extensive series of limestone pavement in the UK along with the most extensive area of upland limestone grassland. Malham Tarn wetland complex is considered to be one of the most outstanding in theUK.

farming in the dales
Farming in the Dales
  • Long history of pastoral farming
  • Farming is marginal – remoteness, climate, terrain
  • Primary land use –hill sheep flocks and suckler cow herds
  • Agri-environment covers large areas of land addressing overgrazing of 1950s-1990s
  • Reduction in cattle since 1970s
economic viability
Economic viability
  • Average farm size is 357ha (but ranges from 200 - 1,1005ha)
  • Livestock numbers, 500-2000 sheep
  • Most of the land is classified as very poor by DEFRA in terms of agricultural quality
  • 60-80% of gross margins is derived from subsidy and agri-environment payments
  • A need to improve efficiency & cut costs (ie out wintering reducing reliance on feed)
impacts of agricultural support
Impacts of agricultural support
  • Recent years costs of livestock production have outweighed market returns – shortfall met by direct headage subsidies.
  • 2003 reform of Pillar I and II of the CAP, combined with broader socio-economic change with have significant impact on farm structure.
  • Reduction of Single Payment year on year will place greater emphasis on improving market conditions.
ecology natura 2000 habitats
Ecology – Natura 2000 habitats
  • Karst landscape with habitat mosaics – grasslands, blanket bogs, juniper, woodland
  • Degraded habitats –many in unfavourable ecological condition
  • Cattle have an important role in the management of wildlife habitats
natura 2000 key management issues
Natura 2000 - key management issues
  • Availability of farming systems and cattle
  • Grazing regimes/stocking calendars required under agri-environment are different from conventional husbandry systems
  • Remoteness of land and provision of livestock handling facilities and water supplies
  • Cattle need to be adapted to physical conditions and be able to graze through winter months (benefits of native breeds?)
  • How to support this management??
how to solve the problem development of the project
How to solve the problem? –development of the project
  • Our key partner is the farming community
  • Established good working relationships
  • Effective dialogue –talking and listening
  • Working together on ideas
  • Mutual understanding and ownership of the project

Project Objective

‘To Restore Habitats within the Ingleborough Complex and Craven Limestone Complex Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) by encouraging a return to mixed farming using hardy cattle breeds’

the project in action farm management
The Project in action - Farm Management
  • Environmental audits and whole farm plans
  • Management agreements on Natura 2000, complementary to agri-environment measures
  • Annual costs
  • Capital costs

- stock protection

- provision of water

- cattle

land management achievements
Land Management achievements
  • 18 herds of traditional breed cattle grazing >1850ha of Natura 2000 (and also other areas of the farm)
  • Provision of 7 new stock watering facilities
  • Provision of handling facilities for remote sites and mobile cattle crushes for shared use by farmers.
ecological benefits
Ecological Benefits
  • 3 years research data –indicate improvements to limestone pavement and grassland habitats with cattle grazing
  • Satellite monitoring provides valuable information on animal behaviour and grazing preferences.
other achievements
Other achievements
  • Project has raised the awareness of the importance of cattle in upland nature conservation.
  • Project has influenced the development of Environmental Stewardship (the English agri-environment scheme) which now include

- Whole farm agreements

- Farm Environment Plans

- Cattle options

environmental stewardship
Environmental Stewardship
  • From 2006 schemes now support the maintenance of cattle grazing in uplands and on grazing marshes

- Cattle grazing supplements

- Native breeds at risk supplement

c.3,000 ha under cattle grazing agreements
  • Of which c.1,100 under new Higher Level Scheme
natura 2000 selling a product
Natura 2000 –selling a product
  • Growing market in the UK for quality beef – valued for taste and structure of the meat
  • Good environmental management can help in the promotion of local or farm brands
  • Good premium prices can be obtained
what are we trying to sell
What are we trying to sell?
  • Growing interest in products with strong local provenance, high standards of production and beneficial to environment
  • A local story

+ Quality product

= Premium prices

healthiness and quality of meat
Healthiness and quality of meat
  • Initial results suggest better taste and texture in native breeds
  • Early indications that grass-fed cattle produces higher ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fats and more anti-oxidants
  • Still awaiting further analysis, including those comparing animals fed on improved vs biodiverse grasslands
limestone country beef producers group
Limestone Country Beef Producers Group

Formation of group – committed to working together to supply a potentially lucrative market to best advantage

  • Production of marketing plan
  • Development of brand criteria
  • Review Options for marketing

Also identified that assistance was needed in two main areas:

  • Selection of Stock to Market
  • Sales co-ordination
approach to marketing
Approach to marketing
  • Farmers manage the land and cattle
  • Environmentalists support the project and supply guidance.
  • Fieldsmen check quality of animals
  • Marketing and sales people advise on options
limestone country beef selling criteria
Limestone Country Beef - Selling Criteria
  • Environmental – simple and easy to follow – length of time spent on Natura 2000 grazing (and final grazing season prior to slaughter), 50% of adult life on agri-environment land
  • Finishing criteria – grass-fed only?
  • Traceability - standard slaughter methods, approved sales channels, food labels, Spot checks
  • Quality – Fieldsman, hung for three weeks, feedback from cutters and butchers.
options for selling
Options for selling

Three options considered:

  • Direct Consumer marketing – box schemes, farmers markets, mail order, farm gate etc
  • Selling to retail and wholesale – restaurants, butchers or food processors
  • Working with a larger retailer – regional supermarkets etc

Need to balance most lucrative markets and those which require the least input.

Limestone Country Project farmers are making €25 - €160 gross margin per head (equivalents) more than when they were farming sheep.
  • Can achieve between € 0.5 and € 2.0 kg/dw more for their cattle than main commodity price – but only when premium prices are obtained.
  • In the absence of niche marketing the prices obtained are much less than commercial cattle or sheep
conclusions the future of the limestone country
Conclusions - the future of the Limestone Country
  • Cattle have an essential role in the management of wildlife habitats (but maintaining cattle in the uplands may be for conservation reasons only and agri-environmental support will be needed)
  • Need to ensure that current agricultural and environmental policies do not lead to further moves away from farming with cattle.
  • May need flexible and local mechanisms to identify and address farming issues and management of Natura 2000
  • Need to assist farmers to help them develop the premium markets needed to stay profitable.
  • The wildlife and landscapes of Natura 2000 clearly have potential as selling points in niche markets, but there is a need for formal accreditation of products and more work needed to increase public awareness.