A SUCCESSFUL 'Big Farmland Bird Count' by the nation's farmers has demonstrated their commitment to conservation efforts as part of their everyday farming methods.

The farmland bird count was completed in February this year with a 65% increase in actual individual counts submitted compared to 2020, which in itself was a record year. The area covered by the count was more than twice the area in 2020, with significantly more birds counted.

The National Sheep Association's policy and technical officer, Sean Riches, commented: “Lamb production supports rural communities as well as being a key player in delivering environmental stewardship schemes. Sheep can be effectively used for conservation grazing in areas that would be difficult to manage otherwise due to poor land quality or terrain. The use of livestock (particularly sheep) for conservation grazing is commonplace in national parks and ensures protection and access of these areas for the general public.

“Grazing by sheep and cattle is essential for maintaining good heathland, moorland and wetland sites," he continued. "Research has indicated that songbirds for example, prefer the mosaic of habitats that sheep grazing provides and are present in higher numbers in areas grazed by sheep. It is therefore evident that the sheep industry in the UK makes a significant contribution to the environment.”

Although previous government policies have not fully rewarded farmers for their conservation role in managing the land, the NSA reported that many have worked to conserve biodiversity, often at their own expense.

The organisation believes that a future system of agricultural support geared towards rewarding environmental goods will create more opportunities for integrating conservation activities with livestock farming and responsible food production.

Organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recognise the vital role farmers and land managers have in conserving and enhancing wildlife habitats ­– with more than 60 of the charity's nature reserves relying on farming – and thus is committed to working to improve wildlife populations across all farms.