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What is conservation grazing?

What is conservation grazing?

June 11, 2024

Sussex Grazed is a meat box scheme sourcing high quality, grass-fed animals from the South Downs and is focused on promoting sustainable food production. Laura Hockenhull, development officer for Sussex Grazed and Land Use Plus, explains what the often-misunderstood term of “conservation grazing” means.

Grazing animals tend to have a bad reputation when it comes to environmental concerns. In fact, we at the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership advocate for a reduction in meat consumption as an environmental measure.

Following on from our article about the importance of chalk grassland and how our Sussex Grazed meat box scheme is aiming to support its recovery, the Land Use Plus team have been investigating what “conservation grazing” means.

On its surface, conservation grazing uses animals to clear scrub and manage grasses. Different animals serve different purposes; cattle wrap their tongues around grasses and rip them out, opening up the sword so that new plants can move in. Sheep nibble away at grass bringing the height down, and some breeds even enjoy brambles. Goats eat just about anything! Ponies can be particularly useful in creating mosaic habitats due to their sporadic grazing style and tendency to trample scrub. In general, animals can access areas too steep or remote to be managed by machinery, and go about things in a more “natural” manner.

There are several types of grazing considered to be useful in conserving grasslands, and perhaps the most widely known is “mob” or “mobile” grazing. This technique involves grazing land fairly intensively for a brief period before moving on. Animals are not returned to this patch of land for a minimum of 40 days. This mimics migration patterns and the traditional farming that helped create this habitat, as well as removing excessive nutrients from the soil and redistributing them.

For a deep dive into this surprisingly complicated term, read our emerging conservation grazing blog series.

Shop Sussex Grazed on the Open Food Network. The next two shares are on 28 June and 12 July with collection from the Food Partnership Club House at Waterhall, just outside Brighton.