Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Search List

Ecologically sustainable grazing management of lowland unimproved neutral grassland & its effect on livestock performanc - BD1440

Description
The main objective is to identify optimum grazing management for species-rich neutral grassland, based on sward structural criteria, to enhance/maintain its ecological value and to quantify the impact of this management on growth of commercial beef cattle. The experiment will involve imposing different continuously stocked grazing intensities on agriculturally unimproved neutral grasslands and quantifing the effects of these managements on the botanical composition and structure of the grasslands and also their insect fauna. A put and take grazing system will be used to maintain the target grazing intensities with cattle being either taken from or removed to agriculturally unimproved/semi-improved pasture (if available). The effects on animal growth of the different grazing severities imposed on the species-rich grassland will be recorded and the intakes of the animals calculated. By combining animal growth rate with grazing day totals the overall grazing output from the unimproved grassland will be calculated. The treatment paddocks will be of a fixed area so that the numbers of cattle used to maintain the different grazing intensities can, if required, be converted to stocking rate figures. Because the grazing management may involve the movement of animals between the unimproved and improved grasslands that could initiate botanical changes, eg weed ingress, in the latter, botanical data will also be collected from the improved pasture. The botanical data from the unimproved grassland will be analysed for changes in community structure and in particular changes in the abundance of key NVC community species, and will thus indicate any shifts in NVC community type. Invertebrate studies on above ground taxa will target species included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as well as including several groups related to specific aspects of vegetation: species richness, species composition, vegetation structure and sward quality. The project will provide information that will underpin development of ESA, Countryside Stewardship and other agri-environment policies concerning grazing management agreements on unimproved species-rich neutral grassland.
Objective
The overall aims of this project are to identify sward based criteria for grazing unimproved neutral grasslands that provide optimal conditions for enhancing/maintaining the wildlife interests of the grassland and to quantify the agronomic value of the unimproved grassland.
Specific objectives are to quantify the impact of different severities of grazing unimproved neutral grasslands on:
1. cattle growth rate and intake,
2. botanical composition,
3. vegetation structure,
4. invertebrate populations,
5. soil nutrient status.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Ecologically sustainable grazing management of lowland unimproved neutral grassland & its effect on livestock performanc   (146k)
• Final Report : Ecologically sustainable grazing management of lowland unimproved neutral grassland & its effect on livestock performanc   (477k)
• Final Report : Ecologically sustainable grazing management of lowland unimproved neutral grassland & its effect on livestock performanc   (22k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1999

To: 2005

Cost: £565,109
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Institute of Grassland and Environment Research (IGER)
Keywords
Agricultural Land              
Biodiversity              
Environmental Protection              
Grasslands              
Land              
Peer Review              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship