The Benefits of Shelterbelts, Trees and Hedegrows

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We discussed in an earlier post our plans to plant new hedgerows and a shelter belt of trees.

There are a wide variety of benefits planting hedgerows and trees to us on the croft; to the animals; and to the wider environment. The most well-know is probably the benefits that trees can have for carbon capture and the sequestering of CO2 from the atmosphere. A broad-leafed tree will capture approximately one tonne of carbon dioxide over a lifespan of about 100 years. We therefore work on four or five trees sequestering a tonne of carbon dioxide over a period of 20-25 years.

Planting trees and hedges also increases the area of habitat available to wildlife such as birds. Tress can also be planted on areas to poor to support stock, and can be planted with consideration to alleviate the loos of substantial grazing. There are a lot of other very beneficial reasons to plant more trees, which we are going to discuss here.

Animal Welfare

Reducing exposure to extremes of weather, both cold winds and extreme heat, can help improve the general health and welfare of livestock through improved nutrition, reduced stress and improved immune function. Hedgerows and tree shelter belts can also improve animal welfare and productivity by providing an alternative source of browse

Field Drainage

Strategically sited tree belts can have significantly improve field drainage. Water infiltration rates can be improved and by increasing soil permeability and water-storing capacity, planting trees can reduce runoff, poaching and consequent damage to the grass sward. Such improvements also contribute to preventing health issues such as liver fluke and lameness. Tree shelter belts and wide hedges that increase water infiltration in to the soil, reduce surface water and the wet conditions that favour the snails which act as host for the Liver Fluke parasite. Many causes of lameness are increased by damp conditions that soften the hoof and cleft between it and make it more susceptible to infections.

Benefits for Lambing

Good shelter is recognised as important for successful outdoor lambing and for young lamb survival. Exposure to cold is one of the biggest causes of loss of lambs – around a third of lamb deaths are due to exposure and starvation. Sheltered, well drained fields provide the best physical conditions for lambing and good mothering. By creating the right conditions for ewes and young lambs, lamb mortality can be reduced.

Studies have shown that lamb losses can be reduced by up to 30% if good shelter is provided. Adequate shelter is most important for twin and triplet lambs due to their relatively lower birth weight and higher susceptibility to cold, wet and windy conditions.

Shelter belts can promote natural behaviours of ewes and they can provide opportunities for ewes to isolate themselves during lambing. Isolation increases the chances of early development of a strong bond between the ewe and her lambs,

Shade and Shelter

Trees and hedges provide a good source of shelter for the sheep all year round. During the summer the trees provide shade from the sun and during winter months sheep are able to shelter from the elements, protecting them from exposure and wind chill.

This means the sheep can put more energy into lamb production, rather than into keeping warm. Using shrubs to provide good cover down to ground level and gives a dense base to tree shelter belts ensuring that enough low level cover to protect the sheep.

Increased Grass Growth

Shelter belts reduce wind speeds and this reduces the evaporation of water from the grass. In dry weather, particularly in spring and summer, this can be an important factor in continuing grass growth. The shelter also has the effect of increasing soil temperature in the early spring and late autumn, extending the growing season for grass so animals can be left out longer and put out to pasture earlier.

Soil Improvement

Well considered planting of trees and hedges protects and enhances valuable natural resources by helping to absorb water and air pollution, and prevent soil erosion and flooding, while creating wildlife habitats and improving landscape character. Such schemes can improve soil quality by protecting soils from erosion by wind and water. Trees with long root structures anchors soils while increasing soil organic matter in the form of decomposing leaf litter.

Hedgerows and Biosecurity

Tree belts or thick hedges around the boundary of the croft can reduce the possibility of direct contact and spread of disease with neighbouring flocks and herds.


A lot of information used is this post was obtained from the Agricology Website.

More details on Agroforestry can be found in the Agroforestry Handbook.

What is a Social Croft?

What is a Social Croft?

A social croft, or care croft, like a social farm or care farm, is a working croft that offers activities to visitors aimed at providing social support or improving social, psychological and emotional functioning. It is a hands-on approach that combines being in nature, being part of a social group and taking part in meaningful croft-based agricultural activities.

Care farming usually provides an innovative, planned, outcome-focused and supportive environment for people to engage in croft or farm-based activities. As well as the agricultural activities themselves, they also utilise other existing assets of the croft or farm such as the farm environment and the people who run it. Social crofts and care farms take a person-centred, solution-focused approach to helping people to achieve their chosen goals.

Eight Reasons to Buy Locally

Eight Reasons to Buy Locally

Part of our ethos on the croft is to reduce our environmental impact as far as possible. At the moment there is also a lot of coverage in the media about how bad for the environment farming, and particularly eating meat is. Here on the croft, we firmly believe that it is intensive farming practices are the issue, and this applies equally to any type of intensive farming whether livestock or arable. That’s one of the reasons that we are kicking off this list with environmental impact.

The Vikings Are Here!

The Vikings Are Here!

Last weekend we said goodbye to our Jacob Tup when we took him up to his new home near Thurso, which was a bit sad. However, we collected three new ladies on our way home - our first Icelandic sheep.

About Icelandic Sheep

The first flock of Icelandic Sheep were brought to the UK in 1979 and another in 1990.

The breed was taken to Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th and 10th Centuries. Having not really bred with any other breeds of sheep for thousands of years, they are one of the purest breeds of sheep in the world.

Copper Beech Pollen

Copper Beech Pollen

The bees have been really very busy this morning, probably because the sun is shining and there isn’t much wind.

Last week they were bringing back mainly yellow pollen (see right) in their pollen baskets, but today a lot of it is red, with a few examples of green pollen and a little bit of yellow.

We looked at the reasons why bees collect nectar and pollen in the last post.

The Arrival of the Bees

The Arrival of the Bees

The most exciting thing for Hugh this week was definitely the arrival of the bees. Having put together the hive, the six brood frames with the nucleus (or ‘nuc’) of bees was transferred from the travelling box to the hive, and additional frames of wax foundation were added so that the bees will have plenty of space to lay eggs and store nectar and pollen in the brood box (the big box at the bottom in the picture).

The last of the bees in the box were shaken onto the ground just in front of the hive to find their own way in, guided by the pheromones from the queen bee in the hive.

Herdwick Lambs Changing Colour

Herdwick Lambs Changing Colour

One of the distinctive things about Herdwick sheep is that they change colour over the first few years of their lives.

When they are born, Herdwick lambs are all black, even though their skin underneath is all white (in contrast to Jacob sheep, for example, whose skin is white under their white fleece, and black under their black fleece).

This lamb was born with only small white tufts on it’s ears, but within the first week, had developed a white patch its head too.