Action: Change type of livestock
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no studies that evaluated the effects, on peatland vegetation, of changing livestock type.
‘We found no studies’ means that we have not yet found any studies that have directly evaluated this action during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore we have been unable to assess whether or not the action is effective or has any harmful impacts. Please get in touch if you know of such a study for this action.
Changing the species or breed of livestock on peatlands could reduce undesirable impacts. For example, using light sheep rather than heavy cows may reduce trampling impacts. Additionally, different species and breeds of livestock feed in different ways, leading to different impacts on vegetation (Loucougaray et al. 2004). Sheep nibble buds and shoots of selected plants, whilst cattle are less picky and pull off clumps of mixed vegetation. Sheep maintain shorter, more uniform lawns of vegetation than cattle which leave tufts of longer vegetation, whilst horses can maintain patches of short vegetation. Traditional or heritage livestock breeds may consume different species of plants in different amounts to modern breeds (Tolhurst & Oates 2001) and be better adapted to harsh conditions on some peatlands e.g. upland bogs.
Key peatland types where this action may be appropriate: bogs, fens/fen meadows, tropical peat swamps.
Related actions: completely remove livestock from degraded peatlands; low intensity grazing as a traditional or novel conservation tool.
Loucougaray G., Bonis A. & Bouzillé J.-B. (2004) Effects of grazing by horses and/or cattle on the diversity of coastal grasslands in western France. Biological Conservation, 116, 59–71.
Tolhurst S. & Oates M. (2001) The Breed Profiles’ Handbook: A Guide to the Selection of Livestock Breeds for Grazing Wildlife Sites. English Nature, Peterborough.