Agriculture in the Falkland Islands
Much of the Falkland Islands land mass is used for agriculture. Despite grazing half a million sheep and approaching 5,000 cattle, the land has largely retained its native plant populations. Interspersed are areas of introduced pasture species, generally on the more naturally fertile soils, which are of particular relevance to animal production due to their improved nutritional value.
As such farming in the Falkland Islands is described as an extensive rangeland farming system. Freedom from some of the external parasites that plague other sheep farming areas, and with few production iting diseases, Falkland Island farming is a very natural system. Similarly whilst tilisers and lime would make a big difference to production levels, the sheer bulk of these makes large scale importation to increase soil fertility too expensive, and such inputs are mostly only used when trying to establish newly sown areas.
The environment here produces exceptionally clean, natural products, and selection to maintain whiteness in the wool has been successful. Consequently the Falkland Islands does have a very good reputation for these traits in their agricultural exports. Organic certification is a step towards marketing these attributes internationally.
The uniqueness of the environment also throws up its challenges, and it is towards these that the DoA directs much of its advisory and research efforts and resources.
Role of the Department of Agriculture
A profitable farming sector will support a population living outside Stanley and provide valuable produce for both domestic and export purchase. It is an essential part of the Island Plan.
The goals of the FIP scheme are to improve profitability by assisting farmers to develop long term solutions to the problems of poor winter nutrition and low wool income. It is achieving this through enabling grazing management systems which will better nourish the sheep, improving pastures and crops and accelerating genetic progress.
The response to genetic improvement alone is easily measurable with a drop in fibre diameter in wool produced worth over £0.6 million per year. Improvements to ewe and hogget nutrition are clearly demonstrated in the grazing trials, and ongoing lupin research is demonstrating the value of improved winter nutrition.
Sound health and welfare of farm animals is important, and apart from the normal pressures some further restraints imposed by those choosing the organic path will create further challenges for our veterinary section.