Thursday, 20 February 2014

Getting farmers talking with Grazing Club

Farmers are interested in talking to other farmers and finding out what they’re doing. That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons why we get such a good turnout for our Better Returns Programme (BRP) events, most of which take place on farms, giving producers the chance to get together and discuss particular technical issues as well as having a look at someone else’s farm system.

While there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face, social media in general, and Twitter in particular, has successfully provided a virtual meeting place for people with common interests. This has proved particularly useful for livestock farmers, who are often based in remote locations and whose ‘day job’ is anything but nine-to-five, giving them little opportunity to leave the farm.

It’s the impressive uptake of Twitter by farmers that inspired our senior livestock scientist, Dr Liz Genever, to set up a new Grazing Club, which places as much emphasis on meeting online as it does on traditional on-farm events.

Liz’s love of all things grass and forage-related is well known – she is responsible for much of the work done by the BRP in this area and can rarely be seen without a sward stick in her hand. Through Grazing Club she aims to unite English beef and sheep producers who are convinced of the benefits of well-managed grassland and are keen to take their production from grass to the next level.

Using a monthly email newsletter and a dedicated area of the EBLEX website, the club gives members access to a range of grassland-management resources, specially created by Liz and other experts, as well as using the excellent BRP materials that already exist. Over the 2014 grazing season other activities are planned, such events and webinars which will look at particular elements of grazing in more detail.

However, what’s key to making it a true club is encouraging members to start building up a Grazing Club community online, giving people a forum where they can tap into other farmers’ knowledge and experience and share ideas.

The conversation has already started on Twitter using #GrazingClub – hopefully over the coming days and weeks this will gain momentum and provide a really useful resource for England’s grassland farmers.

You can find out more about Grazing Club and how to sign up on the EBLEX website