For Craig and Claire Grant of Kindrought near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, joining the Resilient & Ready programme run by LEAF and delivered by Corteva Agriscience was about bringing the many elements of their business together to work in tandem and, ultimately, improve productivity and sustainability.
Looking back at the couple’s achievements over the past three years confirms that this is exactly what they’ve managed to do. Their major goal was to reduce their reliance on imported soya in chicken feed – a concept they have proven and will now pursue over the next three-to-five years. They aimed to cut soya use in half by replacing it with home-grown beans, improving their carbon footprint at the same time.
“To reduce soya, we planted 10 acres of beans and we put two flocks of birds on to our bean diet. Doing that has reduced the amount of soya we are using for feed by half,” Claire explains. “Although we’re still using soya to get the protein content, at today’s price of £450 a tonne it means we’re still saving by reducing our reliance.
“Of course, the price of buying beans has increased as everything has but overall, we’re still saving. The beans we’re buying in have all been grown in Scotland or England so, as far as the carbon footprint goes, we have significantly reduced the amount of soy imported from South America.”
On top of the saving Craig and Claire have made by displacing soya in their feed rations, beans are naturally nitrogen fixing and require no fertiliser.
“When we sow our beans, we’re only using farmyard manure, and only one spray is being applied to it as well. The cost of growing a tonne of beans worked out as £3/percent of protein, compared to £11/percent of protein to buy, and that was before soya prices had increased further.
“It works as a break crop as well, and allows us to get wheat in, which we can grow to feed to the poultry. It has made the acres available to us to grow wheat on greater too.
The couple were also approached by agri-tech company Eggbase during the programme, which has worked with them to provide data that pin-points the source of the farm’s carbon emissions.
"Eggbase has highlighted how efficient colony birds are in terms of production, profit and impact on the environment. They managed to break down the amount of carbon emissions per egg or per bird and can provide an annual recording across all flocks. So, it has armed us with the tools to fight the corner of the colony birds going forward and make the case that colony units are sustainable".
Craig and Claire have embraced opportunities to work with consultants and experts they met through LEAF and Corteva Agriscience’s Resilient & Ready programme, whose services complemented the work they had already been doing in soil testing, as well as inspiring them to develop their integrated farm management practices and enhance biodiversity.
“The timing of environmental schemes and how they fit in with the rest of the business is key. If we can be rewarded for our conservation efforts, it’s something we’d absolutely consider later down the line,” Craig said.
“The advice we’ve had from consultant Andy Guy has explained the LEAF system, how you go through the process of becoming LEAF Marque certified and the auditing process. We could have used Andy three times over!”
The team at C J Grant has always been forward thinking when it comes to testing the soil for lime, conducting worm counts and monitoring organic matter. But working with specialists has provided an insightful comparison to back up the work they had already been doing.
“We’ve learnt how important evidence of consideration is,” Craig says. “It’s ok for us to be thinking something in our head and know that’s why we’re making a decision but if you have the information to hand and recorded, you can backup what you’re doing with facts. This means we can involve our team and show them why we’re making decisions, making it easier for them to come on board and understand the reasoning behind it.”
Being on the programme gave Craig and Claire the chance to test new products and technology and utilised up and coming technology before it was widely available.
“It has allowed us to see how a trial on our farm can be conducted and how there are different levels of involvement required from us depending on the type of trial.,” Claire says.
For anyone reading feeling inspired to apply for the next Resilient & Ready programme, the couple encourage those that are interested to jump in.
“Just do it and expect to meet like-minded people willing to share and learn information,” Claire says. “The entire programme will challenge your train of thought, processes and will provide a framework to explore every area of your farming practices to develop and improve upon year after year.”