Our Grazer of the Month this week is Esther the Welsh Mule (with the black face), who grazes at Kenfig National Nature Reserve. She is three years old and due to lamb twins this month.
Kenfig NNR is a SSSI sand dune system with Glamorgan’s largest natural lake. It is one of the last remnants of a huge sand dune system that used to stretch from the Ogmore River to Gower. The reserve is home to a wide variety of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, including the critically endangered fen orchid.
The dune system is threatened by stabilisation through the growth of grass species and scrub. Undergrazing can lead to the dune slack vegetation becoming dominated by rank grasses or bushy Salix repens. This leads to a loss of species diversity and scrub invasion drying up and shading out the habitat. This is where grazing animals come in!
Kenfig has a long history of livestock grazing, being managed under a commons type regime during the period of medieval township. Rabbits are also important on site, and some management takes place to encourage rabbit grazing. This includes mowing and burrow creation on drier areas adjacent to dune slacks.
Nowadays, cattle and sheep grazing are covered by a grazing agreement with local farming family, the Williams’. Grazing levels are controlled to allow the maintenance of a low, species rich sward throughout the majority of the dune slacks and to reduce the spread of scrub.
Lloyd Williams provides regular updates on the Kenfig- Grazing is Amazing Facebook Group, giving a great insight into what it takes to farm in this area.
At Kenfig, we have been trialling a tracking system for the cattle and sheep, whereby site visitors can use an app to determine where the animals are on site and hence avoid them. We hope that this will lead to less conflict between site users and the animals.
If you are interested in conservation grazing and would like to get involved, contact us.