Grassland management techniques – cutting and grazing
Grass needs to be managed just to remain as it is. This can be done by cutting or grazing. Cutting works best on small sites and grazing can be better on large sites.
Cutting is a really flexible option. Depending on the needs of the site, you can change the timing, the frequency, the area and the height of the cut. Cutting for conservation is best delayed until plants have had a chance to set seed.
It’s also vital that the cuttings are removed. This helps any fragile plants to survive and prevents soil fertility increasing. High soil fertility tends to reduce the variety of plants in an area.
Grazing is more traditional and more sustainable – it produces meat as an end product. It’s the best way to maintain interesting grasslands, full of variety, because of the way animals eat selectively. As animals need fencing and regular checks, it also needs much more commitment. It’s more difficult on smaller sites, where it can be harder to accommodate the needs of all site users.
When grazing, we need to think very carefully about how many animals we need, and for how long. Grazing too little or too much can both be a problem, either by allowing large plants to dominate or by creating too much bare soil.
Grazing cows returned to Chorleywood Common in 2009 after a long gap. Bringing back grazing here benefits the wildlife on the site and makes its management more sustainable in the long term.