In February, winter drags on, and we are fed up with rain, cold weather and no grass for our animals. As the average temperature starts to rise above roughly 7°C (usually in March), the grass starts to grow again.

By May, it is growing flat out, which is why most grazing animals in this part of the world would naturally give birth to their young in May, as it is then that the grass will give them enough energy to feed themselves as well as produce milk for their young.

It is increasingly recognised that grasslands are important for a range of reasons. Some of the rarest and most biodiverse habitats in the UK are unimproved wildflower-rich grasslands, of which only a tiny fraction remain of those that existed in the early twentieth century. The advent of fertiliser, herbicides and many farmers’ preference for productive rye grass at the exclusion of all other species, has meant that grasslands with more flowers than just white clover and dandelions are now increasingly rare.

Trill Farm is lucky to have around 30 acres of species-rich old pasture (containing ox-eye daisy, black knapweed, corky fruited water dropwort and a few orchids) and probably another 40 acres that are moderately rich with species such as bird’s foot trefoil and pignut. We treasure these pastures and aim to manage them sensitively with extensive cattle grazing and late season haymaking. 

It is increasingly recognised that permanent pasture has a valuable role to play in storing carbon. Critical to organic and environmentally minded farmers is the important role that grazing land has to play in building soil fertility with the help of legumes such as clover. Without grassland and grazing livestock, it is very difficult to restore fertility to land after cropping unless you rely on synthetic fertilisers.

So whilst I have much sympathy for the campaign to eat less meat, I struggle with idea that the vegan diet holds all the answers to an ethical and sustainable eating debate. There are many issues that should be considered alongside animal welfare when eating plant crops grown with fertilisers and pesticides, fresh vegetables flown in from abroad, year-round strawberries and tomatoes, or soya grown in the Amazon or palm oil grown in the last remnants of the Malaysian tropical forest.

It’s a minefield, but local organic food is the best solution I have come across to incorporate the many concerns of ethical and sustainable eating.

Jake runs his sheep at Trill to manage and support our wildflower meadows. Through his business, Wessex Conservation Grazing, he also keeps livestock on National Trust land in Dorset.