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Farmer James Bowie on ‘Bees and Beef’

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James Bowie has a ten-year view of a “bees and beef” vision to build the two together in a sustainable synergy. It’s all about creating a balance between a prime Angus beef operation, and a sustainable farm ‘ecosystem’ that supports honeybees and native pollinators.

According to James, the integration of beef, biodiversity and bees is a “no-brainer”, with pollination benefits from honeybees and native bees, as well as the ecosystem services provided by beneficial insects for predation of crop pests and parasites.

The beef enterprise has recently been complemented by bees, as James purchased 60 beehives from a local beekeeper. The acquisition fulfils a long-held interest and appreciation of the value of bees in performing pollination services on-farm, as well as the honey the bees will produce from adjacent native Jarrah forests (Eucalyptus marginata).

With a farming background going back generations, James wants his children, Jamie and Arabella, to grow up on a farm that has a sustainable future. The family began farming in the Greenbushes area in 1968, when James’ father emigrated from Scotland.

The enterprise consists of 1620 ha across ten properties in the Bridgetown/Yornup area of Western Australia. The farms encompass a prime Angus cattle beef operation, as well as cropping and fodder. Returning to the farm full-time with his wife, Katina, James brings a new view to agriculture and on-farm operations, since leaving a corporate career in natural resources and mining.

On the farm, Bowie Beef has a philosophy of nurturing the land. They have a focus on improved pasture management and fencing; revegetation for multiple benefits of shade and shelter, pollinator forage, insect habitat, and ecosystem services; pasture improvement with biodiverse perennials that provide year-round pollen and nectar; and which function as pollinator pathways across the landscape between remnant vegetation and revegetated areas.

James counts inspiration for beginning his journey with bees on the farm from meeting key agronomists, scientists and beekeepers. He sees a benefit of becoming Bee Friendly Farming Certified in gaining access to expert advice to continually learn and improve the farm operations in a bee-friendly way.

The interaction of agriculture and science is an important concept to James, who appreciates quantitative data and measurables to track and record the benefits and improvements on-farm, since taking over the farm three years ago. From soil testing, silage and hay analysis to fertiliser regimes, James values the scientific approach as applicable to undertaking pollinator counts and other research to gauge the outcomes of Bee Friendly Farming.

With an eye on present and future climate change, James is interested in the integration of programs to generate carbon-credits on the farm via environmental plantings that also enhance pollinator habitat. James believes the beef industry will be increasingly scrutinised for its environmental operations and greenhouse-gas emissions. A pro-active approach to farm management, with an environmental focus, to support bees, biodiversity and beef, will ensure Bowie Beef (and bees) has a sustainable future.

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