Conservation Grazing

cattle, conservation grazingHereford Cattle at Wyeswood Common, Lee Parsons

How grazing animals munch, nibble, trample, flatten, poach and pooh - all in the name of conservation!

What is Conservation Grazing?


Conservation grazing is grazing with livestock to maintain and increase wildlife value. Livestock refers to domesticated animals reared in an agricultural setting, such as cows, sheep, pigs, goats and ponies.

In the past, the countryside would have been grazed by wild animals or through traditional farming and common land grazing practices. In conservation grazing we seek to replicate these kinds of grazing systems to maintain and increase biodiversity whilst ensuring animal welfare.

 

In order to meet our grazing needs at Wyeswood Common and Pentwyn Farm, we recently purchased a small herd of Hereford cattle with your support. But we still need your support for our ongoing conservation grazing work. To make a donation to help continue to work of this project, click here


Amazing Grazers!


You’ll be amazed at the ways conservation grazing helps wildlife:


Greenham Common, Amy Lewis

  • Pick and mix - When livestock are allowed to graze freely on our nature reserves, they can pick and choose what and where they eat. This selective eating creates a mix of different conditions (niches) benefitting a wide range of wildlife - from insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, plants and fungi.

 

  • On the hoof - Light poaching of the ground by grazing animals creates bare ground in which wildflower seeds can germinate. This open ground creates a whole micro-climate in itself, attractive as a home and hunting ground for warmth loving invertebrates and reptiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

British white cattle, Rachel Remnant

  • The long and the short of it – Different grazing habits, as well as lying, rolling and pushing of vegetation, cause a diversity of structure in the sward. This is important for ground nesting birds like lapwings and skylarks that need varied heights of vegetation to rear young.

 

  • Dung sweet dung - Because livestock are used in low numbers for conservation grazing, they don’t usually need treatment for internal parasites. That means wildlife, otherwise put off by chemicals, can happily set up home in a cowpat. More than 250 species of insect are found in or on cattle dung in the UK!


 


How does GWT carry out Conservation Grazing?


We often work with local farmers who graze our land with their animals. Alternatively, some of our reserves are grazed by sheep we own. The choice of grazing animal is important as different kinds of livestock vary in their grazing and browsing habits. The type and breed of grazing animal has to be suitable for the habitat they will graze – both for nature conservation and animal welfare reasons.


 


Counting (on) sheep

Hill Radnor ewe with lambs, Annette Murray

Badger face, Welsh sheep, Tom Eyles

Hebridean ewe with lambs, Annette Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GWT began owning sheep in 2009 and have slowly built up conservation grazing flocks that help us manage our reserves. We choose traditional breeds of sheep because we believe they will thrive on our reserves where the vegetation can be comparatively rough, varied and low in nutrients. We breed some of these sheep because we need to earn income (mainly through lamb sales) to cover the costs of looking after them. We also try to help native, traditional and rare breeds of grazing animal where possible, with support and guidance from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

 

Would you like to be a volunteer shepherd?


Gwent Wildlife Trust has a band of volunteer shepherds who carry out daily checks on the sheep flock throughout the year, supporting the work of our Reserves Officers. For these and other volunteering opportunities please see our volunteering pages. Please note our small herd of Hereford cattle grazing will also require daily checking. The volunteer shepherds will be expected to walk past the cattle and carry out a visual check of their condition.

Image credits: Hereford cattle (top) by Lee Parsons; Pony by Amy Lewis; Cattle (white) by Rachel Remnant HIWWT; Hill Radnor ewe and lambs by Annette Murray; Badger face Welsh Sheep by Tom Eyles; Hebridean ewe and lambs by Annette Murray.