Tag: agroforestry

Livestock and Trees with Lindsay Whistance

Wednesday 27th September 2023

Farm Net Zero was pleased to host Dr. Lindsay Whistance from the Organic Research Centre. Lindsay specialises in animal behaviour and welfare and her talk presented results from a range of research studies on animals in agroforestry systems. This event was made possible with thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund who fund the Farm Net Zero project.

The talk was hosted by Demo Farmers, Mike and Sam Roberts, at Blable, Wadebridge. Mike and Sam spoke about the different motivations for tree planting, with Mike being interested in trees with a useful end value (having experience of growing a small fir plantation on the farm) and Sam wanting to learn more about the benefits that trees can provide to cattle daily liveweight gain in their rotational grazing system.

Firstly, Lindsay explained that good welfare is about maintaining homeostatic equilibrium – or balance, both physiological and emotional. Most of an animal’s daily behaviour is about trying to maintain that balance, and farming should aim to support this wherever possible.

Lindsay spoke about three main themes of animal behaviour and welfare in agroforestry systems. The first was temperature regulation; if animals are too hot or too cold, then they will spend energy on trying to reach a balance. Where there is access to trees, animals are able to reach that balance faster as the trees provide shade and shelter from wind and rain. This is particularly important as climate change brings greater extremes of weather.

The second theme was the feed value of browsing on trees. Leaves on a number of tree species have been analysed and found to contain high levels of micronutrients and trace elements. This can provide additional benefits to the animal’s diet.

Finally, Lindsay spoke about the calming effect trees have. There is evidence that animals in woodland have better social relationships with less fear and aggression.

Overall, if livestock are in good welfare then they are able to use energy for fulfilling their potential. This improves efficiency of livestock production, which has benefits economically and for the farm’s carbon footprint.

Key takeaways:

  • Most livestock species benefit from access to trees/woodland.
  • Incorporating trees into farming systems helps to reduce the carbon footprint.

Agroforestry Show


The scorching September sunshine in Wiltshire at the Agroforestry Show was a good reminder of just how important trees are to us humans and to livestock, providing shade, a different microclimate and more water cycling. Hosts Helen Browning and Ben Raskin showed the extensive field scale alley cropping that intercrops trees, crops and livestock. As Helen said “ever since planting these trees the whole field has felt more alive”.

Agroforestry Show

The trees are not only providing benefits in hot weather, but also reducing wind speed, increasing biodiversity and habitat, sequestering carbon and slowing down water in the landscape. But furthermore they are providing extra income opportunities for farmers and growers – such as fruit, timber, woodchip, nuts, and sticks for the future, along with potential ELMS payments.

Alley crops

The event was very much about spreading and sharing knowledge and insight, with a wide range of presentations and discussions. So much discussion was clearly being had amongst people with an interest in agroforestry in a way that only these sorts of events in person can really do. Businesses displaying at the event were as diverse as fruit tree nurseries, wood processing, banks, advisory, nature charities and many more; an indication of just how wide a range of people have an interest in the growth and continued success of agroforestry.

Sea buckthorn

At FCT we had many discussions with attendees about carbon footprinting, and especially carbon sequestration in soils and perennial crops. We believe the Calculator and Advisory work we do really compliments the aims of agroforestry and look forward to more discussions on this subject with farmers and growers in the future.

One of the actions we will certainly take away is to deepen our understanding of the carbon sequestration benefits of Agroforestry systems, and to reflect that in terms of options in the Farm Carbon Calculator.

Becky talking

FCT and Yeo Valley at Countryside COP2

On the 10th October Farm Carbon Toolkit’s Becky Willson and Liz Bowles co-led an event kindly hosted at Yeo Valley Organic Garden as part of the second Countryside COP (CCOP2).

Countryside COP is a hybrid conference held to align with COP to create space for the agricultural sector and rural economies to push ahead on climate change and sustainability. It was established to allow rural communities to come together and illustrate the opportunities that are available, along with contributions that are already underway to reach net zero. The event is also an opportunity to explore adaptation options, something of increasing importance as our weather patterns become more extreme, as seen so starkly seen this year. 

The first Countryside COP was set up in 2021 by the Agriculture & Land Use Alliance (formerly Greenhouse Gas Action Plan GHGAP). Organisations in the Alliance include:

  • ADAS
  • Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA)
  • Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)
  • Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC)
  • Country Land & Business Association (CLA)
  • Linking Environment & Farming (LEAF)
  • NIAB
  • National Farmers Union (NFU)

In an NFU article leading up to Countryside COP1 the Alliance said

“This journey is complex, but there is no shortage of professionalism and knowledge within the rural community, and all who support food and farming. This is the time to utilise and invest in this expertise so we can help contribute to the government’s net-zero target, all while continuing to produce fantastic, affordable food for people at home and abroad”.

This year Farm Carbon Toolkit was one of a range of organisations including universities and farming bodies contributing to CCOP2. Through a plethora of 15 events running from the 10th-14th October all across the UK CCOP2 speakers were hosted from as far afield as Australia, Ghana and Zambia.

At Farm Carbon Toolkit we teamed up with our project partners at Yeo Valley who kindly hosted us, to talk about making the transition towards regenerative agriculture and about the findings so far in the project. The event was attended by a range of participants including farmers, education providers, NGOs and the general public. 

FCT’s event on ‘Soil Health and Water Security’ discussed the benefits that agroforestry can bring to grassland systems. It was demonstrated that the presence of trees can buffer extreme weather conditions such as the drought experienced this summer by supporting grass growth and therefore livestock performance, as it has done at Yeo Valley. Agroforestry can enable soils to retain more moisture, limiting the impacts of both droughts and flooding, so has a direct climate change mitigation potential.

Other findings demonstrated at the event included discussing how research carried out with Yeo Valley farmers has suggested that soil management practices, such as growing herbal leys, can increase soil carbon deposition below 10cm. The amount of carbon this is sequestering due to the range of practice uptake on trial sites is significant – it demonstrates a carbon stock improvement of between 20-40t/c/ha.

The event also showcased how significant discussions and events like this one can be in improving carbon literacy amongst attendees, crucial in moving forward together.

To read more about the other events in the series and the insightful recommendations that came from them please see here.