Why is grazing important?
Cow on Wisley by James Adler
- Grazing is a vital management method in helping conservation organisations look after their protected landscapes. Farming has played a crucial role in shaping these habitats and the continuation or restarting of grazing is vital for their survival. Grazing is often used with other techniques and when done so it becomes an even more powerful tool in protecting and enhancing biodiversity.
- Grazing is the most natural method of looking after the land. As the animals graze across the landscape, they make the decisions where they concentrate their efforts so creating a mosaic of different sward lengths and micro habitats. The animals can create bare ground and stands of dead wood, both of which support an array of interesting wildlife.
- Livestock grazing has less instantaneous impact than burning or cutting so allows less mobile animals to thrive.
- The animals can also access areas where machinery fails. As much of Surrey’s remaining chalk grassland is on steep slopes surefooted animals are a far more successful management tool than vehicles.
- The animal’s dung creates a whole ecosystem by itself! Due to conservation grazing animals usually being grazed in extensive, low pressure systems there is little need for chemicals to control internal parasites. This means that a whole range of wildlife moves into a cowpat to set up home! During the height of summer a cowpat from a SWT cow usually disappears completely within a week due to the amount of invertebrate life that arrives and is then itself hunted by badgers, foxes and birds.
- Grazing has extra beneficial effects as it supports meadow management such as hay making and aftermath grazing. These activities reduce competition by coarse grasses and allow seedlings to flourish so increasing biodiversity on other habitats.
- The introduction of grazing is often the most cost effective and sustainable conservation method available to land managers.