To evaluate the current grazing needs on land of wildlife value within the project area.
Grazing is essential for the management of many of England’s most important wildlife habitats. Grassland, heathland, wood pasture and floodplains all require some grazing to maintain the structure and composition upon which a variety of plants and animals depend for their survival.
Traditionally farming has played a significant role in shaping these habitats and the continuation of certain farming practices is often crucial for their survival. However, farming practices have changed dramatically over recent decades, in response to both political and market forces, and this has often had negative consequences for these valuable habitats. This process of change is far from over and the future management of these habitats is still uncertain. At a local scale important habitats have been taken out of the agricultural sector; nature reserves and country parks need to emulate the agricultural practices which brought these sites to the importance in the first place. Meadow woodland management with machinery and community involvement can emulate these practices, but for habitats that are derived from grazed pastures controlled grazing would be the most optimal management tool.
Within the Churnet Valley there are considerable areas of land under conservation management, including Thorswood and Ladderedge, where grazing by short-term lease is successfully retaining a species rich pasture habitat. However, there are many other sites including scrub, parkland and woodland edge rich sites where such agreements are not suitable.
This project will research the wider opportunities available within the Churnet Valley to manage diverse sites through co-operation with livestock managers.
Comprehensive description of the project
Review wildlife sites (Nature Reserves, Country Parks, HLS farms, SBI's) within the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership and collate information under the following headings for each site:
- Is there grazing and is it appropriate to maintain the interest of the habitat (assess by visits to key sites throughout the first season)?
- Is the site grazed by the owner or is it tenanted?
- What would the ideal grazing regime be; this should be described in terms of what the site should look like at key times (i.e. start of grazing season, midway, end of year) and indication of when grazing would be required (all year round or seasonal)
- What type of stock (cattle, sheep) and are particular breeds required to address issues – are rare breeds required or can alternative livestock do the job just as well?
- Are there alternatives to grazing – if grazing is too challenging can the habitats be managed through alternative methods?
- What are the obstacles to grazing for the landowner and consequently are there solutions CVLLP can provide through a follow up of the project (e.g. trained volunteers for ‘Herd Observers’, standard grazing licences for them to use, purchase of layback land etc)?
- Under the proposed grazing system will layback land be required, and if so how much? is this available on farm or at another farm if grazing is let?
Establish links which could be made between sites to make grazing more viable.
Create an inventory of grazing and graziers (a livestock 'dating agency').
Determine simple monitoring programme which could be undertaken by volunteers who could determine a site’s appearance if grazing is right (e.g. different habitats at different times of year).
Outputs and outcomes
- This is a plan to improve grazing on wildlife sites throughout the Churnet Valley for improved management of small areas of biodiverse habitat which might otherwise be managed sub-optimally.
- Demonstrably improved facility for wildlife site owners / manages to access conservation grazing sites within the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership area.
This is a research project with no tenure issues.
What happens when the project is finished?
We will use the information generated from this project to initiate a co-operative grazing programme in the Churnet Valley.
Better controlled and co-operative grazing could greatly add to the sustainable management of the environment.