by Guy Smith, Vice President, NFU
Measuring and recording things is very much part of modern farming. Rain in the gauge, min and max temperature, kilos used, hectares covered, dates, rates and time - they all go into our record books, spreadsheets and smartphones. It's all information that helps us better understand the complex working environments of our farms. We record things such as milk and grain yields so we can better understand our performance as farmers. It's data like this that enables us to improve our management as we go forward. 'If you can't measure it - you can't manage it' is an old adage that still rings true.
But curiously we seldom think to apply this discipline as farmers to the biodiversity on our farms even if we are tasked to try to improve our conservation work. Our knowledge of what species we have on our farms tends to be a bit random. We might make a mental note when we are out and about in the tractor, especially when something unusual flaps across the eye-line but we don't often treat it as data we ought to log. Consequently while many of us have a good knowledge of the wildlife on our farms, we lack the stats to back that knowledge up.
And that's why I'm a big fan of the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. It encourages us to get in the habit of applying a bit of science to the challenge of farmland conservation just as we apply science to the challenge of improving milk or wheat yields. It also encourages us to look harder at the biodiversity of our farms so we understand it better.
The other great thing about the Big Farmland Bird Count is that, through the good auspices of the GWCT, all the information can be pulled together so we can piece together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.
I often hear farmers grumble that while they are quietly proud of how much wildlife they have on their farms they get fed up with reports in the media that modern farming is bad for birds. I can understand the frustration but to my mind the answer is, don't just be proud - be loud. So, come next February get the binoculars out, dust off the note pad, sharpen the pencil and get recording as you go out and about on the farm. Then post your results to GWCT. We're always interested in how many tonnes of wheat we can get to the hectare, now let's systematically record how many bird species we can achieve per farm.
Take part in the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count
Simply click here to register your interest in taking part. Everything you need is free to download from our website.