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Identification and mitigation of the environmental impacts of out-wintering beef and dairy cattle on sacrifice areas - WQ0125

Description
A low cost option for livestock farmers is to out-winter cattle, instead of providing housing over the winter months. However, using `sacrifice fields`, namely “a field or part of a field that is allowed to deteriorate as a result of winter grazing`, to out-winter livestock may have a number of undesirable consequences for the environment. Specific issues revolve around soil damage from cattle movement, water and air pollution, as well as impacts on biodiversity in and around the sacrifice area.

The aim of this research is to investigate the environmental impacts of the use of grass sacrifice fields for out-wintering cattle. This consists of a number of sub-objectives, namely:

a) to identify parameters that quantify the impacts of out-wintering cattle in social, economic and environmental terms;
b) to establish the sensitivities of impacts from out-wintering, which emerge from various bio-physical and management strategies; and
c) to evaluate the barriers and potential for adoption of strategies to mitigate against these negative impacts.

This research will be conducted in four phases, namely:

i) Background Research Phase; which will consist of a literature review (including data from previous and on-going research), as well as identifying farms conducting out-wintering strategies on grassland. The literature will cover topics concerned with identifying environmental and social impacts related to out-wintering, but will also assess various mitigation strategies available to farmers. The farms identified can be stratified by a number of factors, e.g. region, farm type, intensity and out-wintering strategy.

ii) Data Collection Phase; which will comprise measuring environmental impacts on a minimum of six sites over a two year period. A number of impacts will be measured related to soil damage, diffuse water pollution, air emissions and global warming and biodiversity. Secondly, a number of stakeholder workshops, alongside interviews with farmers operating sacrifice fields, will be conducted to understand economic and social impacts. In addition, these will be used to assess the factors related to perceptions and uptake of mitigation strategies.

iii) Modelling Phase; data collected in phase (ii) will be used to validate current environmental and economic models employed for this study. A number of environmental models have been developed which specifically examine N and P leaching and run-off, air pollution and soil compaction. In addition, SAC has a number of working models focused on integrating both economic and bio-physical impacts within an evaluation framework. These models will be developed to establish the sensitivities of various factors on the impact of out-wintering cattle on grassland, e.g. due to regional or management variations etc. Finally, they will provide an understanding of the impact of various mitigation measures available to livestock producers.

iv) Reporting Phase; will provide a number of technical reports at various stages of the project and also develop a matrix which clearly shows the relationships between the economic, social and environmental consequences of various out-wintering strategies.

The main outputs of this research would be:-
i) a clear understanding of the synergies and trade-offs between economic, social and environmental goals when out-wintering cattle;
ii) an assessment of the environmental impacts of various out-wintering practices; and
iii) a strategy for promoting the most appropriate mitigation methods for achieving the best mix of environmental, economic and social goals given farmer`s constraints when out-wintering cattle.

This research compliments a number of other Government and industry funded work conducted by the research partners. Consequently, it offers a number of synergies with other work, which will help diffusion of results to industry.
Objective
7. (b) Objectives
Please describe the general objectives of the project and the technical and scientific aims of the research which must be measurable and timebound, (please number the objectives). If your application is accepted, these objectives will be included in the agreement between you and the Department. Please, therefore, restrict your entry to the salient points and set these out clearly and concisely.


The aim of this research is to investigate the impacts of out-wintering cattle on grass sacrifice fields. This broadly consists of three main objectives, namely:-

a) to identify parameters that quantify the impacts of out-wintering cattle in social, economic and environmental terms;

b) to establish the sensitivities of impacts from out-wintering, which emerge from various bio-physical and management strategies; and

c) to evaluate the barriers and potential for adoption of strategies to mitigate against these negative impacts.

Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : EVID 4 Final Report Form SRUC   (2416k)
• ANN - Annual Report : Annex6 1 Annual Reports   (213k)
• ANN - Annual Report : Annex6 2 Annual Reports   (273k)
• ANN - Annual Report : Annex6 3 Annual Reports   (699k)
• ANN - Annual Report : Annex6 4 Annual Reports   (434k)
• ANX - Annex : Annex 1 Review Paper   (83k)
• ANX - Annex : Annex 2 Workshop Analysis   (937k)
• ANX - Annex : Annex 3 Example Monitoring Protocols   (86k)
• ANX - Annex : Annex 4 Paper   (288k)
• ANX - Annex : Annex 5 Water Data 2010-11   (57k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2014

Cost: £398,154
Contractor / Funded Organisations
IBERS, SAC Commercial Ltd
Keywords
Air Pollution              
Biodiversity              
Cattle              
Livestock              
Livestock Farming              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Water Pollution              
Water Quality              
Water Quality and Use