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Many habitats, including lowland heathland, like Penwith Moors, require some kind of grazing to maintain their unique balance of plants, insect’s birds and other animals.
Low profitability and subsidies that are no longer based on headage payments mean that livestock grazing, particularly in beef cattle, has decreased all over Cornwall ,and with the vast reduction in the Cornish dairy farm industry our moors have become abandoned.
Many Penwith Moor lowland wildlife habitats are in isolated fragments, no longer part of the economic farming systems.
Grazing controls more aggressive species, which would otherwise dominate habitats, and prevents scrub encroachment.
Livestock are selective feeders, and their choice of plants determines the structure and composition of the vegetation.
The type, number and timing of livestock grazing must be tailored to the needs of each individual site.
Grazing removes plant material more gradually than cutting and burning, and gives mobile species more chance to move to other areas within the habitat.
Conservation grazing isn’t only benefiting habitats, it is also helping to preserve some of our country’s rare traditional breeds of livestock ,like the critically rare Whitebred Shorthorn, it also is creating a tourist attraction in West Penwith, clearly demonstrated at Bosigran / Carn Galva where holiday makers are stopping to photograph Belted Galloway Cattle freely roaming between the cattle grids.
Our Whitebred Shorthorn cattle and Dartmoor Ponies thrive on coarse vegetation that modern commercial breeds would not touch.
To go into this subject in greater depth and learn more about what we are trying to achieve over the long term, I recommend an excellent book by Graeme Kirkham entitled “Managing the historic environment on west Cornwall’s rough ground. Click Here for further information