Updates on soil health, benchmarking antibiotics and Farmer Innovation Day
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Benchmarking antibiotic use
Listen again to webinar
'We should always think before we use antibiotics'
 
Innovative dairy farmers have been thinking a lot recently about how they can reduce their antibiotic use. Last year a group looked at whether using udder mint to treat mastitis could help treat the infection without resorting to antibiotics, now a group in Wiltshire are looking at on-farm testing to reduce their use.
 
We recently brought together a group of dairy farmers to discuss the issues surrounding antibiotics. They found that though lots are trying to reduce their use, there's no simple way to benchmark how you're doing. We asked herdsman, Luke Williamson to report on what they found.
"I had never participated in a webinar so am excited to do more!"
 
Have you taken advantage of the Innovative Farmers webinars yet? Using them is really simple and if you want to see what you've been missing, you can watch Ian Wilkinsons' latest session on Green Manures here.
 
Phil Moore from the Ecological Land Co-op joined us for Ian's last session "Thanks for the great 'Making the most of green manures' webinar. It was packed with really useful info and really well facilitated. I had never participated in a webinar so am excited to do more!"
 
See the full list of webinars and sign up here, they're free for members of Innovative Farmers and just £10 + VAT for everyone else.
More research for techniques
The root of soil health
"Field labs are a great way of ensuring research into techniques, rather than profit-driven products continues." 
 
Andy Dibben from Abbey Home Farm has been involved in the potato blight field lab, testing the disease resistance (and tastiness!) of 11 varieties of potato and supports Innovative Farmers for facilitating research into techniques. You can read about the trial here.
 
"Field Labs are a great way for farmers to find well-trialled solutions to problems that affect there production, crucially they often involve trialling techniques rather than products. There seems to be plenty of R&D into products, but less goes into how we can use our existing resources in new ways. I guess there's no commercial incentive, it's harder to sell a new technique than a new product!"
“I think the strength of the network is that the research is practical and relevant to farmers."
 
Adrian Hares is a farmer and soil advisor, who is also coordinating the Wilts Soil and Roots group. After meeting for the first time back in January, they've submitted their proposal, been approved, received their funding and got their baseline data collection under way. You can follow the groups progress here.
 
We asked Adrian why he wanted to be part of Innovative Farmers.
 
“I think the strength of the network is that the research is practical and relevant to farmers. They’re not just being given results; they’re learning how to carry out trials and picking up skills from each other.”

Field lab updates
 
Learn the best ways to control Creeping Thistle at Sandringham Estate
 
Most farmers contend with creeping thistle at some point. It's one of the most problematic weeds for low input and organic farmers but finding reliable alternatives to synthetic herbicides is desirable for all farmers; organic and conventional. A field lab in Norfolk has been tackling the weed, by trialling eleven different treatments and measuring the impact they have on thistle populations and crops.
 
The group will be revealing their findings at an event on 22 June at Sandringham Estate. This event is free and open to anyone with an interest in keeping thistle under control - so make sure to reserve your place soon.

Sprouted seeds for laying hens
Diverse leys for grazing sheep
Students at Duchy College have been taking part in a new field lab, feeding sprouted seeds to their laying hens. Sprouting is claimed to make nutrients more easily absorbed by the birds, reducing the total amount of feed needed to keep them healthy and laying well. This is the first scientific trial to test these claims in hens, although an Innovative Farmers group found positive results with beef cattle.

If you're interested in how sprouted seeds could benefit your animals, follow the progress of the North West Livestock group here.

Using a multi-species grass ley is a great way of enriching your soil and attracting pollinators to your grassland. A group of Welsh sheep and beef farmers have found it's also doing wonders for their flock.
 
Dafydd Jones, who is a Duchy Organic lamb producer for Waitrose, found diverse ley grazing and silage was giving him 400-500g daily weight gain for his lambs and an average 1.6kg gain for his cows. Impressed by this success a group of 9 Innovative Farmers group planted a ley rich with clover, herbs and grasses on their own farms. We'll be expecting results over the summer. 
Find out more 
 
All field lab results are available on the Innovative Farmers web portal; in full for members and in summary for subscribers.
Innovation events
Meet the Innovative Farmers
Field walks for Summer 2016
Farmer Innovation Day
Thursday 29 September
Are you the kind of person who wants to hear news straight from the horses mouth? Before you start spraying your crops with compost tea or planting green manures here's a chance to speak to people who've been involved in field labs and seen the results on their own land.

14 June - Hemsworth Farm, Dorset - Compost Teas with Sophie Alexander
7 July - Townsend Farm, Warwickshire - Beef and lamb cost and production
19 July - Curlew Call FarmWorcestershire - Green Manures with Jonathan Boaz
19 SeptemberRoundhill Farm, Wiltshire - Soil health with Adrian Hares

Visit www.innovativefarmers.org/events for a full list of all upcoming events

This is a chance to meet like-minded farmers who've been trialling and testing on their own farms. We'll hear stories from field labs but also from farmers outside the network who're tackling practical issues with innovative solutions. 
 
We've structured the day to make sure you won't just be listening to other peoples bright ideas, there's lots of time to talk to other Innovative Farmers and find out how their results could work for you.   
 
Thursday 29 September - 10.00 to 16.00 
Sheepdrove Conference Centre
Optional farm walk 
Lunch and refreshments included
 
Book your tickets: Members £20 Non-members £35
Want to improve your soil? Try a GREAT Soils webinar 
 
As part of the GREAT soils programme, funded by AHDB Horticulture, and delivered in partnership by the Soil Association, the Organic Research Centre and Earthcare Technical Ltd, we are offering a series of webinars on soil health for growers.

27 July - Soil Health and Bottom Line
31 August - Soil Health and What to Measure
7 October - Managing Soil Health with Organic Manure
Research news
Our research manager Kate Pressland has found some recent research articles we think you might find interesting. These projects have been funded by our sponsor BBSRC, the UK’s leading funder of research in agriculture and food security.
Contact us
 
Please do contact us if you have any questions; email info@innovativefarmers.org, visit www.innovativefarmers.org, tweet @IFarmers or call 0117 9874572. 
Innovative Farmers is part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. The network is backed by a team from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Innovation for Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association, and supported by Waitrose.
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