Cheswell Grange - Neil Harley

Neil Harley. Shropshire

The farmer

Neil Harley took over an arable farm and is converting it to pasture. The farm operates a holistic management system and he farms without artificial fertilisers or sprays. The cows move every few days to fresh pasture, helping to sink carbon into the soil.

Since he has been in charge of the land, he has converted many of the arable fields that previously rotated wheat, oil seed rape and potatoes into rich, lush and diverse pasture. He is also seeing a huge increase in biodiversity and wildlife on the land.

Although no measurements have been done, he is very likely operating with a net loss of carbon, meaning his farming is putting more into the ground than is being released by his approach.

The animals

The land holds 75 Angus and 50 crossbred mother cows and their calves. The herd is closed, with all replacements bred on farm and all the progeny taken through to finish on the pasture locally. This means all the livestock are born, grow up and live their entire lives on the farm. 

The calves are reared in the most natural way, living all of their lives within the herd alongside their mothers in mixed age groups, thus minimising stress and allowing the animals to display their natural behaviours. It's something rarely seen in modern farming systems. Happier cows, a better environment and tastier beef.

The land

The farm is 780 acres and has been farmed by the same family for five generations. 360+ acres of pasture has been created since the spring of 2017, helping to restore soil health and improve biodiversity. This locks up carbon underground and enables natural processes to return the soil ecosystems, restoring them to full health and in turn allowing our ecosystem and the food we eat to become healthier.

The grazing ground is now holistically managed and completely chemical-free. There are numerous areas set aside for nature and biodiversity, including flower rich margins and wild bird feeding plots. The farm is PFLA Certified. Pasture fed for life! 

Neil has seen a huge increase in biodiversity since operating holistic management.