A brief description of the grazing approaches found during the questionnaire
Set Stock Grazing
This is the style of grazing that we most commonly see in this part of Devon. On the face of it, this is a low maintenance system of animal husbandry but the cost to the environment is huge. Animals are contained in a field or open area and remain there until most/all of the forage has been consumed. This could be the entire growing season, with animals coming back time and time again to graze the same plants. This approach also leads to impaction of the soil. Rainfall infiltration becomes less efficient increasing the risk of flood. Unless at extremely low livestock density and therefore uneconomic, this system guaranties biodiversity loss in the sward. There is no consideration for recovery time of the plants, so after repeated grazings, the more palatable, nutrient dense, medicinal plants such as our native wild flowers are eradicated. This can be seen across throughout the countryside of the UK.
Consequently this lack of a balanced diet leads to animal health issues such as parasite burdens which are then treated with chemicals that again damage soil health. Set stock grazing damages soil health.
This style of grazing involves moving fences regularly allowing the livestock access to fresh pasture.
In the context of this project, the strip grazer is from the dairy sector and combines this grazing approach with high fertiliser use, tillage, reseeding and slurry spraying. All these practices are damaging to soil health. There is little or no increase in organic matter in the soil using this system. The leaching of chemicals and the release of greenhouse gases in this system are high. Overall this system is detrimental to soil health and therefore the wider environment.
This is a word I have made up to describe land managers that I have encountered during this project.
They are in transition. These farmers are bunching their animals more tightly, moving them more frequently and are beginning to see the benefits in animal health, productivity and biodiversity uplift. They are noticing greater drought resilience. These land managers are open minded, brave folk who are willing to experiment and willing to fail and learn. They do not have all the answers but they are taking steps to improve the state of the environment and need support.
This system is where very low densities of the appropriate animals to that environment are allowed to graze. Care is taken in the duration of grazing season allowing plants to fully recover and reproduce.The results can show an excellent increase in biodiversity.
Adaptive Multi Paddock (AMP) Grazing and Techno Grazing
Both these systems mimic nature in the 'herd effect' that they create.
Animals are moved daily or every other day to provide fresh forage.
Animals bunched together tread lots of organic matter into the ground.
Moving and back fencing prevent over grazing and under grazing.
Long plant recovery periods allow a broad diversity of species to develop in the sward. The greater the diversity in the sward the greater the diversity of insects alongside an improvement livestock health.
These systems require extensive planning and often equipment to provide all the welfare needs of the livestock in terms of food, water, shelter/shade. Time to set up fences is a significant factor. Once set up though, large numbers animals can be raised in highly productive, financially profitable operations that also provide an unrivalled boost in biodiversity. This is truly regenerative agriculture. Agriculture that is net positive to nature.