When visiting or while driving by Menhammar farm, you’re always likely to see cows or sheep grazing peacefully. But it´s not just a bucolic sight; it’s part of a restoration process that has been ongoing for many years.
Ulf Segerström, Agricultural Operations Manager at Menhammar farm and Markus Nilsson, Professional Gamekeeper, can easily describe a desirable pasture. It should be varied, containing trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers, since they offer a form of environmental enrichment and a variety in the food supply. If the pasture is hilly and contains groves of trees and bushes, that’s also a good thing since it offers protection from bad weather, such as strong wind and rain.
“Regular farmland used for pasture easily gets trampled to pieces by the animals, especially during years with heavy rainfall and a large number of animals occupying a small area. If the ground gets trampled and the greensward disappears nutriments might find its way through the ground and flow with the drain water into lakes and streams. This in turn could cause eutrophication ,” Ulf says. “Our pastures are often on dry, somewhat rocky grounds, which has a better carrying capacity for the animals.”
Menhammar has been a small-scale meat producer for a few years now. Today, two animals are taken to a nearby butcher every five weeks. Meat from Menhammar is in high demand and practically leaps off the shelves at the local grocery store when it’s delivered. An oft-heard criticism of meat production is that the animals graze on arable land. In the case of the regenerative grazing carried out at Menhammar, no such land is used during meat production.
“Today, we sell all the meat produced, and since customers keep asking for our meat, there’s a great potential for expansion. Our meat is no more expensive than others, and we ensure that the whole animal is used, not just a few selected parts,” Ulf points out.
So, what made them decide to embark on this decades-long process?
“We wish to uphold a sustainable use of both animals and nature, and to use resources in a way that’s sustainable in the long run, while we also increase and maintain biodiversity,” says Markus. “It’s the core of everything we do. We strive for balance in the ecosystem – if we’re going to restore more land, we need more animals to graze it.”
Now, three years after a phosphorus pond was created at Menhammar, with the purpose to lower the load of nutrients and hence the eutrophication of Lake Mälaren, the results on its efficiency has started to show – and they are above and beyond expectations. Phosphorus bound to clay particles flow with the drain water which in the phosphorus pond sediments and sink to the bottom. Remaining nutrients are absorbed as “food” by the aquatic plants in the shallow part of the pond, hence reducing the amount of nutrients ending up in Lake Mälaren.
Rreadingsduring the autumn 2022, show that the pond intercepts on average 60-70% of the leaked phosphorus, with peaks up to 80%. Usually, the average is about 40-60%.
“We’re very happy with the results, and we believe that the pond’s large size and its irregular shape are key factors here. In a few years’ time, we will dig out the slurry from the bottom of the pond and spread it over the farmland, thus beginning yet another cycle,” Ulf Segerström explains.
Grazing animals have been a part of Menhammar for a long time. Until the 1970s dairy cattle used to graze the banks of Lake Mälaren, amongst other pastures. When the dairy cattle was phased out they were replaced by a stock of cows and calves, which since then have grazed the pastures of Menhammar. A continuity of grazing animals has been on the land for a long time and thanks to this a biodiversity of important species have been preserved.
For the past 20-25 years, Menhammar has increased its green pastures, which in turn means that overgrown and wooded land has been restored and reclaimed. The sought-out result is a biotope with more species increasing the biodiversity of the pastures, where a high-quality food product, natural pasture meat, is produced at the same time.
650 ha arable land and pasture
1,000 ha woodland
20 ha restored land
50 beef cattle