RETURNING LIVESTOCK GRAZING TO JERSEY’S COASTS
This project’s objective is to re-establish grazing flocks to achieve effective and sustainable land management which will enhancement of heathland landscape and habitats on Jersey’s cliff tops.
- To return traditional grazing practices to Jersey’s coastland
- To restore biodiversity in coastland areas by recreating mosaic of vegetation types
- To restore populations of birds and other plants and animals on Jersey’s coast
The rugged north coast of Jersey is one of the Island’s most stunning and dramatic locations and has been proposed to be designated as a National Park within the Island Plan. It forms an almost continuous belt of natural wild landscape from St Catherine’s in the east to Les Landes in the west and contains an intricate network of habitats supporting a wide variety of wildlife. Despite its beauty and importance it is an area suffering ecological decline. Up until the beginning of the 20th Century the coastal headlands and north facing escarpments were an important part of the rural economy. Cattle, ponies and sheep would have grazed upon these areas and gorse and bracken would have been collected for fuel and bedding respectively. Today such practices no longer take place and bracken and scrub has encroached, leading to a decline in biodiversity and resulted in many coastal and heathland species becoming extinct locally.
What are we doing?
In 2008 the National Trust for Jersey reintroduced 20 Manx loaghtan sheep into an area of 180 vergees between Sorel Point and Devil’s Hole to open up the scrub landscape, to improve and safeguard the heathland habitats and to increase biodiversity. The National Trust has brought a shepherd on board and it is planned to build the sheep flock to a sustainable size over the next five years.
This is an exciting long term project which is at the forefront of the Trust’s countryside conservation work. A detailed management plan is available.
Livestock grazing plays a key role in maintaining many species-rich habitats by controlling more competitive species and preventing scrub encroachment and successional development.
On heathland, extensive grazing can have a number of benefits:
- Grazing can be used to develop a mosaic of habitats. Well managed heathland contains areas of grassland, scrub, dwarf shrub and also bare ground. This habitat can only be maintained through active management, of which livestock grazing is an essential component;
- Some animals will select particular plant species, and in doing so will determine the structure and floristic composition of the vegetation. Further, animal dung and areas of bare ground produced in hoof marks are good for some specialist invertebrates and birds;
- Grazing can be used to manage habitat change more gradually. Livestock grazing removes plant material more gradually than cutting or burning giving less mobile species a more opportunity to move to other areas;
- Grazing can be used to control invasive species such as scrub (including gorse), bracken, purple moor grass, rank grasses;
- Grazing can be used to remove nutrients from heathland. Heathland vegetation requires a low nutrient status. Grazing animals can result in a net removal of nutrients from a site, maintaining the low nutrient status and controlling invasive species which often rely on higher nutrient levels;
- With the re-introduction of livestock, the heathland has the potential to increase local incomes and jobs, provide additional grazing land for local farmers and provide a local and environmentally friendly source of high quality food.
At Mourier Valley progress has been made in improving the heathland using mechanical and chemical management which has helped start the restoration process. This work will be greatly complemented by grazing and secure a more sustainable future for the heathland habitat. To ensure that wildlife habitats are managed for greatest environmental benefit it is important that the type, number and timing of livestock grazing is tailored to the needs of an individual site. Different types of livestock graze in different ways and this influences their suitability for grazing individual habitats. Even within livestock types, individual breeds can graze differently.
Conservation grazing will open up the heathland landscape and improve biodiversity. Education services provided will include an annual guided walk programme. Locally produced meat and wool will be sold within the Island and make use of land outside of the standard agricultural system. The project will ensure the reintroduction of sustainable farming on coastal slopes. The Manx loaghtan sheep will provide a further educational and heritage resource through their link with the extinct Jersey sheep.
This project will further create a valuable attraction for tourists and locals and encourage public Involvement through volunteer shepherding: reconnecting people with Jersey’s past.
It is difficult to predict overall budgets for the grazing programme as each individual site chosen will undoubtedly have its own unique requirements. The possible future use of ponies for grazing will have very different financial needs to sheep areas. As a guideline, it is costing the shepherd around £20,000 per year year to maintain the current sheep flock at Mourier Valley and this includes at least £5,000 in vet bills alone!