Please find below, answers to the questions and enquiries that we get asked most often. If you can't find the answer you are looking for, please contact us.
Why was Legacy Grazing set up?
In 2009 the Essex Rural Commission were asked by Essex County Council (ECC) to examine issues around living and working in rural Essex, and to develop recommendations for the delivery of improvements in the quality of life in rural Essex. Addressing the decline of livestock grazing in the County was identified as an important issue in three of the Commission’s twelve priority areas:
- Increase use and management of natural green spaces
- Secure an Essex food policy
- Nurture wilderness in Essex.
As a result, Legacy Grazing was born with the aim of developing a herd of native breed cattle to help the Council and its partners work towards these aspirations.
At the start of 2010 our first pedigree Red Poll cows arrived, the equipment needed to move and maintain a herd of cattle was purchased and our first young apprentice was appointed. Nine years later and the project now supplies heritage grazing to over 900 hectares of land at sites throughout Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Kent - many of which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Local Wildlife Sites (LoWS).
What livestock do we have?
We have Red Poll cattle, Cheviot goats and Dorset Down sheep.
Legacy Grazing is a member of the Red Poll Cattle Society. Red Poll cattle are a traditional East Anglian variety identified as a native breed at risk and all of the cattle are registered as pure bred. The herd was established in 2009 and currently comprises over 300 cattle. An extensive grazing system is followed and the breed are slow maturing with each animal taking between 18 to 24 months to finish.
Red Poll are ideally suited to grazing sites that are important for wildlife and open to the public. They are lighter than most commercial continental breeds, will happily forage on semi-natural vegetation and have a docile temperament.
In 2015 we acquired 60 Cheviot goats with a view to developing a breeding herd to complement the Red Polls. Cheviot goats are a rare feral breed from the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and are thought to be one of the best examples of this primitive type of goat which was brought to Britain in Neolithic times. They are highly effective at controlling woody vegetation typically browsing on scrub for 50-75% of their feeding time – much more than most other large herbivores.
We use our flock of Dorset Down sheep at Abberton where a tighter sward and lighter touch is required due to the presence of uncommon waxcap fungi.
What is the objective of the Legacy Grazing project?
- To conserve scarce wildlife and landscapes to help local authorities and other organisations demonstrate a positive commitment to England's Biodiversity Strategy
- To explain & promote the role played by grazing animals in shaping the natural and historic environment
- To provide volunteering opportunities to local communities
- To achieve the highest standards of animal welfare
Why is conservation grazing important?
Livestock grazing is essential for the conservation of many of England’s most important wildlife habitats. Meadows, heathland, wood-pasture, and coastal marshes all require grazing to maintain suitable conditions for the plants and animals that characterise these special places.
Farming has played a significant role in shaping these habitats and the continuation of traditional farming practices is often crucial for their survival. However, farming has changed dramatically over recent decades, in response to both political and market forces, and this has often had negative consequences for nature conservation. Commercial livestock farming can lead to over-grazing of grasslands or abandonment of less productive semi-natural habitats.
This is where conservation grazing can play a role by providing livestock to help maintain pastoral habitats for their wildlife interest - placing greater emphasis on biological rather than commercial outcomes.
What are the benefits of conservation grazing?
Grazing animals eat selectively and often choose more dominant plant species, which allows less competitive plants to thrive. Wildflowers encourage insects, which are in turn eaten by birds and mammals. As they graze across the landscape, the cattle decide for themselves where to concentrate their efforts thereby creating a mosaic of different sward heights and micro-habitats.
Lying and rolling helps increase structural diversity. This can be important for ground-nesting birds like lapwing and snipe that need a variety of sward heights to successfully rear their young.
Trampling creates areas of bare ground, producing nurseries for seedlings that might not otherwise survive and providing basking and hunting opportunities for warmth-loving invertebrates and reptiles.
Dung generates an ecosystem in its own right. By minimising the use of chemicals to control internal parasites a whole host of wildlife will colonise a cowpat - more than 250 species of insect can be found in or on cattle dung in the UK and these in turn provide food for birds, badgers, foxes and bats.
Why should I use Legacy Grazing's services?
We offer extensive knowledge of conservation grazing combining ecological insight with practical know-how. Our team have been involved in major conservation grazing schemes at a number of nationally important sites including Hadleigh Park Olympics Legacy, Thorndon Park and Epping Forest. We have links to an unrivalled network of partners in the environmental, agricultural and public sectors. Furthermore, as part of Essex County Council's Place Services, the project can access an array of specialists covering ecology, arboriculture, historic environment, landscape design and planning.
We are always on the look-out for new technology and ways-of-working that can improve the impact our livestock have on the habitats and landscapes they are helping to conserve. Thats why we were the first in the UK to try the Nofence virtual fence system on our goats in 2019/20. Not only does the system allow livestock to graze areas where conventional fencing is not practical, it also allows staff and volunteers to find animals quickly, and it can be combined with GIS and ecological monitoring to avoid under or over grazing of target habitats.
We are not a conventional commercial livestock operation, we offer a bespoke conservation grazing service using native breed livestock. We work with you to design a grazing regime that is tailor-made for each sites conservation objectives to make sure the grazing animals are present at the correct times and in the right places.
We take a rigorous approach to Health & Safety management. No cows with calves under 3 months go onto sites with public access, and all livestock are regularly temperament scored - should any animal be considered unsuitable for public sites they are removed from the herd.
The welfare of our animals is paramount and working with our vet we have established a robust health plan that protects our livestock, but in a way that does not have undesirable effects on the environment. For example, if ivermectin based treatment is used it will be done when cattle are housed and stock will not go onto sites important for wildlife within 30 days of treatment to allow the chemical to be excreted before turn-out.
When you use our service you are also supporting our wider aims to minimise our impact on the climate, work with local communities through our volunteer network and to advance the evidence-base for conservation grazing with traditional breeds.
Get in touch
If you are interested in using our service or have any further questions, please get in touch.