Organic dairy farmers spring into action for bumblebees

Welsh dairy farmers and bumblebees don’t normally crop up in the same context but a group of organic dairy farmers, who market products under the Calon Wen brand, are hoping to change things.

Photo credit: Cotswold Seeds Ltd

Concerned by the plight of the humble bumble Calon Wen farmers have sprung into action.

Six Calon Wen farmers from across Wales are leading a research project “Pasture for Pollinators”, looking at how they can stop, and even reverse the decline of bumblebee populations by managing their pastures a little differently.

The Project, which is funded through the European Innovation Partnership programme managed by Menter a Busnes, started at the beginning of 2018.

The farmers are using special seed mixes in their pastures, supplied by Cotswold Seeds, which include a high proportion of pollinator friendly plants. When they cut the field for silage they leave a four metre margin at the edge of the field, which they leave to flower, providing a feast for pollinators. They are also looking at how they can manage other habitats on the farm, such as hedgerows and unimproved pasture.

“Seeing wildlife on my farm makes my job much more enjoyable, and learning about bumblebees has been fascinating” said David Edge, one of the Calon Wen farmers involved in setting up the Project.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is providing the technical expertise for the Project, and are monitoring pollinator populations across all farms. “I am really pleased with how the Project is going so far” said Sinead Lynch, Senior Conservation Officer at the Trust. “We are currently still in our initial trial period and we are already observing some very interesting results. We have visited all of the farms, completed surveys and seen that the farmers are incredibly engaged and on board with this Project which is great.”

Anna Hobbs, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Officer responsible for surveying the farms remarked “the results that we have collected during the 2018 trial period are really encouraging. They indicate that leaving these uncut field margins can really help in providing the continuous source of flowers needed for bumblebees and other pollinators to feed from”.

The Project is also capturing the imagination of the public. Local resident, Mark, from Hawarden in North Wales told us “I believe Calon Wen farmers are doing a marvellous job here. I walk these fields everyday with my dog and since the start of the project I have seen a significant increase in the number of bumblebees and other pollinators around, which shows the Project is clearly already a success.”

Over the next two years the Project team hopes to be able to show that looking after our pollinators is easy and practical, and goes hand in hand with producing quality milk.

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