Wildlife flocks to dairy farm habitats07/09/2011 09:14:47 2,500 hectares of farmland dedicated to wildlife habitat
September 2011. Celebrating a scheme that's seen land totalling the equivalent of 4,000 football pitches being dedicated to wildlife friendly habitats, the Waitrose WildCare scheme marks its fifth anniversary this month.
"We are talking a large area," comments Tim Oliver who heads up the scheme. "Dairy farmers who supply milk and cream to Waitrose are on average dedicating 25% of their overall farmland to wildlife habitats - amounting to 2,500 hectares of land. It's above and beyond what we ever thought could be achieved when the scheme was launched five years ago."
First rolled out in 2006, Waitrose WildCare was designed to be a flexible and pragmatic scheme with the primary objective of improving plant and wildlife habitats across the farms, a focus which, as the scheme reaches its fifth year milestone, is still held today. "Our strategy to target habitat rather than species has been rewarded," reflects Tim. "Tailoring our advice to focus on what will deliver the greatest benefit to wildlife on each individual farm has allowed us to take into account the geography and location that are unique to every holding, so that we offer bespoke rather than blanket advice.
"There are some key components to the WildCare approach including, advice on good hedgerow management, implementing wildlife buffer zones and encouraging farmers to leave cereal stubbles over winter; but we have found that many of the 60 dairy farmers within the scheme are going well beyond the minimum criteria: planting wild bird seed mixtures, creating pollen and nectar strips, digging ponds and providing winter food," comments Tim.
Waitrose Dairy Farmers
WildCare works with Waitrose Dairy Farmers, to encourage farming practices that benefit wildlife.
Commenting on his experiences since joining WildCare, Ashton believes he has learnt a lot and got so much out of it. "Seeing the increase in wildlife numbers is the best thing, it's living proof that the changes we've been making have worked," he remarks.
150 bird species, 42 butterflies, orchids, hares