2016-03-21   facebook twitter rss

GWCT Scottish Demonstration Farm

Having a demonstration farm in Scotland has been a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust objective for ten years.

Demonstration is at the heart of the GWCT’s Allerton Project at Loddington in Leicestershire. Over 20 years this has become a showpiece for our farmland research, demonstrating that good arable farming and game shooting management sustain wildlife and countryside income.

Auchnerran Demonstration Farm

Auchnerran

Now is an important time to secure a Scottish demonstration farm for the GWCT with grazing, upland and shooting interests. The Common Agricultural Policy and the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill present very challenging proposals for those who invest in shooting and farming, and who also enjoy wildlife. Our politicians are not yet persuaded that there is a real risk to Scotland’s countryside in marginalising investment in such beneficial management. We believe practical examples, backed with good science and our advice put into practice, can change such views.

Auchnerran occupies 1,030 acres (417 ha) of hill-edge land near Logie Coldstone on Deeside in Aberdeenshire. It is located on the edge of a bowl-shaped geographical feature known as the Howe of Cromar.

  • The farm is highly typical mixed arable, grass and wooded farmland: 20% arable/ploughable, 30% pasture, 40% rough grazing and 10% wood/other.

  • The farm lies adjacent to 12,300 acres (5,000 ha) of heather moorland owned by Dinnet Estate, which is summer grazed by our hefted sheep flock of 1,400 ewes.

  • Agricultural short limited duration tenancies (SLDTs) have been secured over both the farmland and moorland grazing.

  • The SLDTs include the right to claim all available subsidy; basic payment, and other support for maintaining sheep grazing to benefit the moor’s conservation.

  • The moorland and farming grazing could support a hill flock of up to 1,800 sheep and a lowland flock. In the future cattle may expand the commercial operation of the farm.

  • This type of farming is typical of 36% of Scottish farmland and supports 24,500 jobs. The work of Auchnerran will also be relevant to those who farm the 3.3m ha of grass-dominated agriculture in southwest and northwest England, and Northern Ireland.

  • In Scotland this type of farmland can be home to much game and wildlife but is coming under increasing economic pressure with consequences for the wildlife: for example 15 years ago grey partridge were common but are now increasingly absent, and lapwing and curlew numbers are also declining sharply.

  • We want to demonstrate what farming is necessary to retain the wildlife we have and how we might actively manage biodiversity back into Scottish upland farms.

We aim to use our demonstration farm to inform, influence and inspire as follows:

Inform

The Auchnerran demonstration farm will:

  • act as a repository for the GWCT's research and a reference point for other organisations that support its evidence-led approach;

  • host ‘farm walk’ and ‘shoot walk’ days, and other initiatives such as Open Farm Sunday, and allow the GWCT's supporters access to real time data on the farm, and information on its operations;

  • be a forum for discussing best practice and for keeping farmers and managers informed of the latest developments;

  • enhance the GWCT's shooting, farming and biodiversity advisory services, providing training days on snaring and predator control;

  • and enter a joint programme with the MacRobert Trust, allowing hands-on co-operation with other like-minded organisations

Influence

Auchnerran can play a valuable part in influencing policy and decision making. Why is this important?

  • With land ownership and sporting activities in the spotlight, it has never been more critical to demonstrate proper land management, and show policy makers a logical continuation of landscape stewardship, from snipe bog, through to barley, to permanent pasture, the hill-edge and up to the heather moorland.

  • The Auchnerran concept has been welcomed by Scottish Government bodies, and will complement the GWCT's work at the Allerton Project research farm, using practical examples based on good science and putting advice into practice.

  • Auchnerran provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the GWCT's ‘Farmer Clusters’, and of farmer-led landscape-scale conservation.

  • A commercial farm operation, combined with game management and, in time, a small shoot will demonstrate the link between economically viable management and practical conservation objectives.

  • In a man-made environment, conflict between species is inevitable - but Auchnerran can show how this can be managed sensitively and sustainably.

Inspire

Auchnerran will engage with the local community, and provide education and inspiration for land managers and the wider public.

  • Auchnerran can help to demystify shooting and farming operations for the public.

  • Auchnerran can show that farming and game management working together create better rural employment opportunities, and a more vibrant working community.

  • Managed properly and in line with advice, farmland and upland habitat are not only productive for farming and shooting but also harbour higher densities of invertebrates, songbirds, waders and other biodiversity target species.

  • An intensification of conservation techniques can achieve net gains for wildlife while maintaining a viable farming enterprise.

  • The GWCT's education programme at the Allerton Project can provide a template for similar at Auchnerran: public access facilities and open days; tertiary education; talks to land management and conservation students, school-age visits and workshops; and training for gamekeepers.

GWCT

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