Conservation Grazing

Conservation Grazing

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Earlier this month, more than 150 people attended the Innovation in Conservation Grazing conference in Worcestershire, hosted by Natural England, as Sara Gregson reports.

Conservation grazing is livestock grazing that meets nature conservation objectives. It includes anything from extensive, low intervention schemes that meet the welfare needs of livestock while allowing natural processes to occur, to grazing on improved grassland managed to optimise sward structure for invertebrates, small mammals and birds.

While there is no golden rule, conservation grazing generally involves less intensive land management on areas that are less commercially productive. Native breeds are often used due to their hardiness and ability to cope with the conditions.

Quite often, such grazing schemes use set-stocking, allowing a set number of animals – cattle, sheep or ponies, to roam and graze over the whole area throughout the agreed period. But is this ‘continuous grazing’ the best way to safeguard protected and environmentally sensitive sites? Even at low stocking densities animals will often favour the tastiest, most palatable plants to eat, leading to unfavourable vegetation changes. Could systems that sub-divide the area into one to four day paddocks, allowing animals to intensively graze smaller areas on a rotational basis, be better? Rob Havard of Natural England believes so.

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