From the West Midlands on Friday, on Saturday I went with our senior farming advisor, Helen Chesshire to visit one of our biggest farming partners, L.J Fairburn and Sons Ltd, to highlight the importance of trees for farms with local MP Victoria Atkins. The weather was miserable but spirits were high and we were thrilled to be hosted at Barfen Farm, near Alford in Lincolnshire, one of the company’s flagship sites.
The Fairburn family have been long-time supporters of our mission in farming and have received trees from the Trust over the years through our MOREwoods scheme. On a chicken farm, and especially one that prides itself on its free range eggs, trees are a vital commodity, just as valuable as barns to a farmer and much more attractive.
Trees provide a myriad of benefits to poultry farms, including:
• Improving ranging behaviour through cover, shelter and shade
• Reducing injurious feather pecking by encouraging natural behaviour
• Lowering parasite load and ammonia build-up
• Reducing stress and increasing shade, leading to better quality eggs.
Chickens are descendants of the red junglefowl whose traditional habitat was woodland scrub. With trees, hens are encouraged to develop more of their natural traits, range further and engage in natural activity such as dust bathing. Together with the shelter from predators, these measures help to reduce stress in the birds, improving egg quality and farm productivity.
However, trees do more than just help poultry farms. In fact, they’re useful on all sorts of farms, from arable to sheep and everything in between. Read more about how we can help with large scale planting.
As you can see we all got involved, if a bit wet, and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the farm. We hope Victoria will carry the message about the role of trees on farms into her work in Parliament, especially as agriculture begins to move up the national agenda as we prepare to leave the European Union.
Check back in with this blog series to keep updated on our view of forthcoming changes to planning policy and proposals around agricultural support that will be consulted upon by Government shortly.