Small scale grazing strategies

A great afternoon at Brookmead, Colwall was the venue for a discussion on Small Scale Grazing Strategies hosted by Lindsay and Jane Williams. With further thanks to James Hawkins and Sue Holland for their contributions and to Colwall Orchard Group who hired us their fabulous shed.

Introduction to holistic rotational grazing was based on Pen Rashbass’ Hebridean flock in Derbyshire and the effects of grazing pressure and rest periods on leaf and root production.  Penn has made paper copies of her notes available – please ask Caroline Hanks for one. Some Herefordshire Meadows smallholders taking similar approaches with the added consideration of how to adapt electric fences /  tape / pig netting to sit well in the local landscape.

Other strategies discussed reflect different owners’ objectives such as all year round grazing, maximising grass and beef / lamb production, resilience to drought and poaching, wildlife habitat management / conservation grazing and wildflower meadows and pastures. Most have multiple objectives.  We agreed that maintaining flower rich swards requires additional attention to detail and timeliness. During meadow creation / enhancement the grazing / mowing strategy must allow for soil / seed contact and enough light for seedling establishment. To maintain flower rich grassland broad leaved plants must flower and set viable seed that returns to replenish the seedbank. Managing wildflowers among trees and scrub brings extra challenges so that all components of habitat mosaic can thrive.

For those without their own livestock good communication between grazier and meadow owner is key to reaching objectives. Good fencing, loading areas, water supply, realistic payments / rent, timing of grazing, mowing, etc are critical to success.

There is an Information and Resources leaflet available which summarises the discussion at the event. The Grazing Animals Project leaflets have been updated and are now hosted on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust website and are a really useful resource on all aspects of livestock keeping, conservation grazing and more.