We often get asked 'what is conservation grazing?' and 'what is so good about it?'.
Conservation grazing is a carefully monitored and managed process of using livestock grazing to benefit local wildlife, landscape and cultural heritage. Conservation grazing is used to improve and maintain natural spaces, like the White Cliffs of Dover where our herd live.
The livestock help the vegetation and wildlife in several ways, firstly they naturally reduce dominant plant species’ numbers, allowing other, less dominant species to grow. The cattle lying and trampling on the field also creates areas of bare ground, which forms land suitable for plant regeneration from seed. Lastly the huge importance of cattle dung must not be undervalued, not only for nutrient redistribution, but also for invertebrate survival. There over 250 different species of insects that have been sourced in, or on, cattle dung in the UK and many are dependent on the dung for survival.
It is important when conservation grazing, to pick species and breeds suited to such a task, they must not destroy the land that they are trying to improve for example. The breeds must also ideally be able to survive living outdoors and on a pasture-only diet, which is why native breeds are usually used. We quickly discovered that our Shetland Cattle are ideal for conservation grazing due to their large feet and light frame, which minimises poaching of the land. They are also keen browsers and versatile foragers, which helps the environment around them and improves the flavour of their beef, due to their rich and diverse diet. Our cattle regularly graze meadow plants such as Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Red Clover, and Vetch. Sometimes they might even fancy nettles, or choose leaves from trees in the woods; and in the autumn they will pick themselves Blackberries. The variation in their diet also means that the meat they produce is full of antioxidants, vitamins and ‘good fats’.
Organisations such as the National Trust and the Kent Wildlife Trust are quickly seeing the benefits of conservation grazing on their land's biodiversity and we are glad to see an increase of livestock being used in this way in the UK. If you have a question about how we conservation graze on the White Cliffs of Dover, Shakespeare's Cliff and Samphire Hoe, just pop us an email! Or visit the cattle yourself, there are public footpaths all along the coast and parking down on the Hoe!