Working at Boschendal as a young intern, Craig Clowes was exposed to regenerative agricultural practices and alternative methodologies to traditional farming. This sparked his interest and curiosity in sustainable farming methodologies and when he returned home to Scotston Farm (third generation) in Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, he decided to undertake a journey that would lead to improved soil health and ultimately healthier, more resilient crops.

Over the years, Craig began listening to podcasts that included the theories of Rick Clarke, Mitchell Hora, and John Kempf. He is an avid reader and continues learning by also attending a regular study group in Underberg.

Although Craig’s main income stream is milk, he farms soil too. Following a no till approach, Craig has managed to reduce his fertiliser input, without affecting yield. He has also managed to reduce fungicide sprays on his silage maize, using only one fungicide this past season. Craig is trying to improve the naturally occurring microbes in his farm’s soil to improve plant nutrient levels (grow nutrient dense grass), therefore increasing animal health and the volume of milk produced. It’s not easy to completely swop out chemicals for biological products and hence Craig has opted for a systematic approach of reducing certain inputs. At the end of the day, Craig is looking for sustainability and increased energy content in his silage.

Dairy farming is however hard on the land and Craig has a milking herd of 840 cows, with intensive rotational grazing, usually on a 60-day round in winter, and 23–24-day rounds in summer. In addition, changing weather patterns such as El Nino indicate low rainfall in the upcoming seasons. Together with the instability surrounding the regular supply of electricity, Craig could find himself in a situation where he needs to buy in food and drop the number of cows he has if he is unable to maintain a healthy pasture – he is therefore working on crop resilience. In February of this year, Craig took a soil sample and worked with realIPM to put together a program to add some vital nutrients. MicrosZ and SeaBrix have been the products being utilized. Results have been positive.

‘We farm for the next generation’ explains Craig, ‘And I like to test the boundaries on what can be achieved and still make a good living.’

Craig has also undertaken the task of making his own compost and works with organisations such as Trace and Save to pull his carbon emissions data. By opting for solar power, which he hopes to soon push back into the grid, and making his own compost, his carbon footprint is reduced.

On 62ha of soya’s, realIPM recommended the following:

The results saw an average of 3.1 tons/ha, which the team considered more than acceptable due to a lower plant population and the fact that harvest was delayed repeatedly due to bad weather. “Our highest yield to date” says Craig.

On 102ha of maize silage, realIPM recommended the following:

The results saw an average of 54.01 tons/ha wet.

By approaching farm sustainability from all angles, Craig is working towards resilience in his soil, plants, cows, and farm overall. We look forward to working alongside him in the future and thank Craig for hosting us on his farm.

If you would like to chat regenerative agriculture on pastures, silage maize, and soya’s in KZN contact Steve on ‭+27 (82) 572-3637‬ or contact realIPM here‬. ‬‬‬‬‬