In 2007 the CCRI, in partnership with the Rural Business Research Unit at Askham Bryan College, completed a four-year project, commissioned by Natural England to analyse the impact of the EU LIFE funded Yorkshire Dales Limestone Country project on the economic output of farmers. The project aimed to restore the unique habitats in the area by encouraging farmers to convert to more sustainable mixed farming systems using traditional hardy cattle breeds. Comparing the financial and economic performance of three representative farm models the research found that under current market and policy conditions it was possible to maintain or even increase farm gross margins by switching from sheep to hardy cattle production, but only if premium prices are achieved for the cattle and financial support is provided for any initial livestock purchases and infrastructure costs.

The report concluded that if the positive environmental impact of hardy breeds is proven in the Limestone Country project, then grazing systems with hardy breeds in areas like this would be a suitable objective goal for agri-environment schemes. An appropriate package would support grazing systems with traditional breeds, with tailored agri-environment management plans based on site conditions and sward structure. This package would also help farmers to plan and develop linked marketing strategies to capture a higher return from a differentiated product, on the basis of biodiversity benefits. Jane Mills led this project with assistance from Peter Gaskell.   Download summary – Download