Skip to content

Nikki Yoxall: Grampians – The Agriculture, Biodiversity and Climate Change Network

30 March 2024

This article originally appeared on the Farming For A Better Climate website 

Nikki and James Yoxall, based in Aberdeenshire, run a 100% pasture fed beef grazier system.

Farm Type Livestock: 100% Pasture fed beef
Total area farmed: It varies (we are graziers) currently 162 ha (400 acres)
Total number of livestock: 30 cattle

What climate/environmental actions have been undertaken on the farm?

“Our whole approach is agroecological and aligns with regenerative agriculture principles. We focus on creating an abundant and diverse agroecosystem which leads to soil health and water cycle function with integrated land uses such as silvopasture.

Using holistic management we manage for effective energy flow, nutrient cycling and ecological functioning. By managing our grazing in an adaptive and intentional way, we mitigate animal health and ecosystem risks associated with overgrazing and maintain healthy, living roots in the ground at all times. Using above ground plant monitoring, we are able to evaluate management impact and address accordingly. All animals are outside 365 days a year, with deferred grazing providing much of the winter feed requirement.

We use no routine medication, and have never had to worm our cattle which has biodiversity benefits, particularly for fauna including dung dwelling invertebrates.

We have a rigorous selection policy which enables us to maintain a low input herd, with low to no interventions.”

What impact have these activities had?

We have seen increased diversity and abundance of flowering plants in grazing areas by creating rest in the grazing plan.  Silvopasture has benefitted the cattle both in terms of health and welfare due to shade and shelter, but also nutritional benefits. This has meant we have not had to use and mineral supplements or wormers.  Wintering costs are low – with no housing requirement and limited feeding of hay (no silage) due to deferred grazing strategies we are able to keep cattle healthy outside, have no requirement for a manure management strategy and continue to create winter habitat and feed for dung dwellers and overwintering birds.”

What was the catalyst for you taking this action?

“We farm for ecological functioning as a priority, so using holistic management and setting our holistic context helped us to define all of this from the start.  We also couldn’t afford (and wouldn’t want) to farm conventionally so had to be creative about how we grew the herd.

Working in collaboration with landowners, recognising our knowledge and approach as offering value to them has been a key driver. “

Have you completed a carbon audit & are you gathering any other data about the climate/environment impacts of your farm?

“No – our land parcels change frequently as graziers. In addition, carbon audits are single outcome focused, based on efficiency, not emissions and sequestration.  Until sequestration is appropriately accounted for, carbon audits lack meaningful impact. “

What are your top tips/lessons learned from the experience that other farmers should consider if taking similar actions?

“Natural systems have been working effectively for millennia, it is only human intervention that has caused so much unbalance – look to natural processes for inspiration and trust in them to create a healthy ecosystem.”

What if anything would you do differently?

“We have learned from mistakes we have made, but wouldn’t choose to do anything differently.”

What, if anything, are you planning next around climate and biodiversity?

“Everything we do is for climate and biodiversity!  We are currently planning both structured and unstructured agroforestry projects using planting and natural regeneration.”

Sign up to the FAS newsletter

Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service