A Welsh farmer has highlighted the role played by grazing livestock in enhancing biodiversity during a visit by farming minister Robert Goodwill.
The Defra minister, who is a farmer himself, visited a family farm in South Wales, which has been run by four generations of the Bowen family.
Brian Bowen explained how the sheep and cattle maintained open mountain land which supported a range of species, in particular ground-nesting birds.
Mr Bowen, who is Vice President of Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW), explained how grazing is 'essential' for wildlife, saying: “That grazing takes place in the spring and through the summer up on the open mountain, but in the winter the animals are moved to our better ground and into cattle housing.”
“Many people don’t appreciate that farming is tied in to the weather and the cycle of the seasons, and that to keep up the essential environmental work our animals do in the summer we have to make enough crops to feed them over the winter.
“It’s a system that’s been going on for thousands of years,” he added. “Being an arable farmer, the minister is dealing with a very different type of farming to us, but we are both locked into following the seasons and the weather.”
Mr Bowen went on to emphasise the role that producing fodder and crops and keeping animals more generally played in maintaining the rural and wider economy.
He said that jobs, the rural economy, wildlife and conservation are 'all parts of the jigsaw', but livestock production is the 'essential piece' that links them all together.
“Farming and food production need to be profitable if we are to avoid losing or damaging these things,” he added.
Mr Bowen also welcomed the fact that people were acknowledging the damage done to habitat and wildlife through schemes which reduce farming activity.
“Unfortunately getting government policy to change, even when the evidence and experts are supporting what farmers have been saying for decades, is like turning a supertanker around,” he said.
“At the same time we have even more damaging concepts such as rewilding.”
He told Mr Goodwill that such policies 'fail to recognise' how farming and nature interact, and that people take food 'for granted'.