Grazing Benefits

Long grass has smothered the heather and blaeberry

Coming from a farming family, I suppose that I have a certain reluctance to criticise agriculture and its part in the ongoing destruction of the countryside. Only after four years of working with and writing about wildlife am I beginning to look with a critical eye at farmers, and there is plenty to look at. I have a feeling that there is a storm brewing on that subject somewhere in the not too distant future, and there will be a billious blog article to set the world to rights, but for now, I will come out and say there is something inherently vile and traitorous about the way that certain “farmers” suckle greedily at the teat of European funding, chasing every grant and subsidy like bluebottles on a shitey tup’s arse. There’s literally nothing that they wouldn’t do to their land to make themselves eligible for funding and handouts.

Anyway, this is all kneejerk stuff and stems from an irritating meeting this morning and a gradually developing realisation that has been on the go for a few months. The real purpose of this post is to say that I am getting a new mystery guest tomorrow (more on this to come) and I need a temporary run to keep it in. Not having anything suitable, I went up on the hill and dismantled my ladder trap, which has been in situ up there since March.

As soon as the trap was down, I saw what a difference had been made to the undergrowth by a spring and summer without grazing. By comparison to the heather laboratory (more on this to come, too) which was built mainly on a stand of heather, the trap had been set up on a mix of heather and grass. As the picture (above) shows, the summer without grazing has done nothing more than grow the grass up, which in turn has smothered the heather and blaeberry mix into non-existence.

Getting the grazing right on the hill is an extremely fine balance, and this is a great example (on a very small scale) to show that cutting grazing down to nothing can do as much harm to patchy heather as overgrazing. Obviously, the answer is to graze the hill seasonally, so that there are sheep and cows to eat the grass as it grows in the summer and then nothing to harm the heather during the winter when stock will damage the heather. This is something that I’m working towards, and it could show some real dividends in the long term. However, not having any stock of my own to graze the hill during the summer, it means that it’s a goal that can only be achieved by working with a farmer. With the potential rewards being so great, I’ll just have to bite my tongue.

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One thought on “Grazing Benefits

  1. Buster

    The logical way forward may be to encourage partnerships between low ground farms and upland farms to ensure seasonal grazing, how this works practically is difficult to imagine but certainly you have highlighted a major problem and the answer may have to be radical. Hefted flocks cannot be moved, a lack of manpower means shepherding is limited and the established mindset is not one that fully embraces change easily, let battle commence.

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