A true pioneer of sustainability in agriculture

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David Shelton, who supplies Morrisons, is one of the retailer’s ‘top 50’ Sustainable Beef and Lamb Scheme producers and last year was named Sustainable Farmer of the Year at the British Farming Awards. But never one to stand still, he is pressing ahead with his goals of becoming net zero and has made a number of developments in the last six months. “Since winning the award in addition to farming traditionally to improve soil organic matter with farmyard manure and cover crops, we are currently looking at applying biostimulants to farmyard manure and chicken manure to make more use of nutrients,” said David.

“We are also looking at application of potash and phosphate from the residue of burning poultry manure in power stations. We have invested in soil nutrient mapping and variable rate inorganic fertiliser application. On the livestock side, we are looking at improving health status and sourcing of bought in beef cattle to finish at a younger age. Finishing at 370kg deadweight and reducing days to slaughter therefore improves emissions.”

Mr Shelton appeared on Farmers Guardian Farm Futures digital round table back in November, where, alongside experts from Lloyds Bank, the Agricultural Industries Confederation and the bioenergy and anaerobic digestion consultants NNFCC, he talked about opportunities for farming businesses to improve their sustainability credentials.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of collecting data,” he told the event. “On the beef side, we buy-in cattle which finish between 18-28 months at similar deadweight. By regular weighing you can see which animals are performing better and are most suitable for the system. Genetics and breeding are going to have a lot to do with reducing emissions [in livestock] in the future. By running a mixed enterprise, he feels he is able to get close to net zero goals. I do not think we will get there purely on beef alone but certainly by mixing all the elements together with woodland, environmental creation and renewable energy we are heading in the right direction,” he added.

A true pioneer, Mr Shelton, who formerly owned, floated and sold major car retailer Motorpoint, urged other farmers to make changes, however small they think they might be. “I would like to say to any entrants for the awards to keep an eye on ongoing research into farming sustainably and carbon capture plus emissions reduction. Do not be afraid to try new practices and techniques to improve sustainability,” he said, adding winning the honour had been a big boost for his team and family. “I was absolutely thrilled to be recognised for all the effort my team has taken on board all the practices we have implemented in our quest to achieve carbon neutrality by farming sustainably.”