Farming has changed. Economic and climatic pressures have nudged everyone from smallholders to the industrial-strength farms to adopt sustainable practices, seek out novel materials to protect and grow their crops and livestock. Many have diversified opening their gates on "lambing days", inviting in hunters and shooters to take pot-shots at cultivated fowl, stocking up irrigation reservoirs as fishing lakes for anglers, and even opening up their smoother fields to kiteboarders and other recreationists whether on foot or with wheels. There are, of course, plenty of farms that still grow cereals, beets, and leafy greens, while others have dairies and herd bovines, ovines, porcines, and other traditional quadrupeds.

While those lambing days are quite common on an English country farm, especially ones with an educational wing or attached to an entrusted stately home, some privately held farms have significantly upped their game, as it were, in terms of their offering to the recreational market. A farm not too far from this writer's home just north of Cambridge has the traditional cows and sheep but also plenty of other species for visitors to see ranging from ostriches and red deer to ever-so-slightly more exotic wallabies, capybara, and meerkats. They even have a small flock of White Stork, the kind of large bird you no longer see natively in the British Isles but that you might spot in a straw-based nest on top of a chimney stack in Germany or Poland, for instance.

But, it is the material waste that caught my attention on a visit to this particular farm, which, as many do, opens its gates to the public that they may partake of the cafeteria, gift shop, and the well-stocked delicatessen. Material waste of not quite the kind we might usually discuss on this site, but the kind that emerged by the several bin loads each day from the butchery. A skilled butcher will be very efficient at stripping every last shred of value from a carcass regardless of species, but there will also be gristle, fat, bone, sinew, and skin that will not make it into any of the products on sale on the deli counter, and thankfully so. It is a huge problem for even the smallest site: how to dispose of all that butchery waste.

Which is where this particular farm has come up with a rather novel solution. Rules and regulations surrounding butchery waste now preclude some of the traditional disposal routes. A butcher cannot, for instance, feed the waste back into the food cycle for animals that will ultimately be destined for slaughter and human consumption. The risk of prion disease and other problems are too great. The waste generally cannot be composted easily and won't necessarily make a useful compost anyway. So, this particular farm has recruited some assistance from helpers you would perhaps normally expect to see in Africa and Indonesia - the Nile and Siamese crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus and Crocodylus siamensis.

One of the former crocodiles relishes in the heavily ironic name of Cuddles, but the protective sheet steel board used during feeding time down on the farm hints at a less than huggy character lurking in the water of the hot and humid tropical house on this Cambridgeshire farm. The crocodiles are, as you might imagine, rather adept at disposing of the great mass of the farm's butchery waste. Indeed, the farm's website suggests the animals are 90 percent efficient. Anything that efficient has the right to get its teeth into an "eco" or "sustainable" label, surely?

Needless to say, I got a few snaps" of the crocs of the rock, down on the farm, which you can see on my blog.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase. You can see more of his macro and other photography via his website.