Mobile grazing units
There were times when seeing cattle on the fields was a common sight. As common as gathering hay for the winter. Nowadays, the farming practices have changed towards intensification, with less grass-fed cattle, more intensive breeds and more cattle grazing on smaller areas. All this leads to intensification of farming on some areas and abandonment of grazing on other. Grasslands and nature miss the grazers as grazing is one of the best methods to keep the grasslands open and flowering. Our experts often visit grasslands that are abandoned due to their difficult terrain, poor accessibility, lack of capacity from the landowners to manage them. From those experiences, the idea of mobile grazing units were born.
Mobile grazing units are an innovation on Latvian, Baltic, and to some extent, on EU level. Their one and only role is to travel all over Latvia and graze on semi-natural grasslands that would otherwise be abandoned and overgrown. After several years of planning, Latvian Fund for Nature purchased 40 cattle (Galloway cattle breed) and ca 170 sheep (Romanov breed) and launched the first mobile grazing season in 2018, equipped with experience from other grazing projects and a large dose of courage.
During the first season, mobile grazing units visited 9 locations and grazed 183 hectares of grasslands in three Natura 2000 sites. The project goal is to graze at least 300 ha of grasslands every season.
How does it work in practice?
Grazing season starts in April – May and continues until September-October, while the winter is spent in the winter shelter, eating hay and dreaming about green grass. While the grazers wait for the spring, our experts prepare for the next grazing season – they gather information on the potential grazing areas in all Latvia and select the most suitable sites for the project. Contracts are signed with landowners about the grazing. Before the grazing is started, experts also evaluate the condition of each grassland – the number of species, height of grass, amount of biomass in the grassland, etc. After that, the field preparations for grazing can begin. Our mobile grazing unit coordinators set up the electric fence and ensure the access to water in each site. After the preparation is finished, it is time for transportation of cattle and sheep. Transportation is ensured by deploying a tractor, pickup car, and two cattle trailers purchased in GrassLIFE. We keep a close look on our mobile grazing units throughout the season, as at least two animals in each herd have radio transmitters and we visit them at least every second day.
After the meadow is grazed, the cycle repeats and mobile grazing unit leaves for next location, but experts evaluate the condition of the grassland after grazing.
Where do mobile grazing units work?
GrassLIFE mobile grazing unit work in grasslands that correspond to the following criteria:
- The grassland is located in one of the GrassLIFE project locations
- The grassland is one of the EU priority grassland habitats
- The grassland is included in the Natura 2000 network or important for its connectivity
Action implemented by LFN.