Field Note: Da Byw ‘24 – Sustainable Livestock Farming Conference in North Wales

June 28, 2024

The Royal Countryside Fund's Executive Director, Keith Halstead reflects on our recent attendance and sponsorship of Da Byw in North Wales as we continue to increase our support for farming and rural communities across Wales.

The aim of the Da Byw conference, ‘People, Profit, Planet,’ is entirely aligned with our founder and patron, HM The King’s vision of productive and profitable agriculture that is in harmony with nature, and to reverse the trend of struggling rural communities by encouraging the rebirth of family farms.

The Royal Countryside Fund was therefore delighted to both sponsor and attend Da Byw, held at Coed Coch, for the first time this year and witness the incredible optimism and solutions-led approach to farming being developed in this beautiful part of North Wales. The Royal Countryside Fund’s staff witnessed the resilience and dedication that define our rural communities, underscoring why our charity is committed to a living landscape of working family farms and prosperous rural life and continues to stand by family farms, confronting increasingly complex challenges with robust solutions.

The speakers at Da Byw hailed from all four corners of the globe but their experiences, and stories resonated strongly with the Welsh farmers in attendance. The most poignant messages were:

  1. Profit matters: small family farms face challenges moving towards sustainable practices if they can’t break even first. Profitability is essential to ensure farm enterprises can thrive while adopting new methods.
  2. Research and development: data is the key to unlocking support for sustainable farming. By understanding the benefits and challenges, farmers can be provided with the tools and resources they need to succeed and stay motivated.
  3. Climate change: farming can be a powerful ally in the fight against climate change. Farmers are stewards of the countryside and so are responsible for thousands of tonnes of carbon in their soil, and with practices like rotational grazing and diverse swards, they have the potential to sequester even more.
  4. People: farmers need the headroom to think about changes on their farm and to discuss with their family. This is where local events like Da Byw can really help offering time off farm, exposure to leading practitioners, practical demonstrations and connecting with other like-minded people who are often going through the same thought process and personal journey as to their future, their family and their farm.

The conference was a vibrant showcase of the spirit and innovation at the heart of rural life. The mix of inspiring international speakers with a practical walk around the estate to spend time with leading experts on soil and mob grazing worked well, as did the social side of the conference which provided a raft of opportunities for delegates to engage with each other, thanks to the hospitality of Davina and Harry Fetherstonhaugh.  

In reflecting on Da Byw, it reinforced to me the importance of providing local support to farming families, as we offer through our own farm resilience programmes. The messages above are reflected in our programmes for family farms which not only focus on the business side of farming but also environmental sustainability, with the overarching aim of enabling farmers to operate profitably.  Moreover, by joining one of our farming programmes, delivered by trusted advisers, you will meet other like-minded farmers in your area. Details of all our 2024 farm resilience programmes are available here on our website.

Keith Halstead 
Executive Director, The Royal Countryside Fund