Shorten the period during which livestock can graze

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    32%
  • Certainty
    20%
  • Harms
    2%

Source countries

Key messages

  • One replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in the UK found that shortening the period in which livestock can graze had mixed effects on heather, bilberry, crowberry, and grass cover.
  • One replicated, randomized, controlled study in the UK found that grazing in only winter or summer did not affect heather or grass height compared to year-round grazing.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1989–1995 in wet heathland in Northumberland, UK (Hulme et al. 2002) found that after six years only allowing grazing in winter or summer there was little difference in heather Calluna vulgaris height compared to areas exposed to year-round grazing. Heather height did not significantly differ in plots where grazing was only allowed in winter (38 cm), plots where grazing was only allowed in summer (38 cm), and plots where grazing was allowed year round (38 cm). The same was true for grass height (winter only: 37 cm; summer only: 33 cm; year-round: 31 cm). Four blocks, each composed of three 0.3 plots were fenced in 1989. Within each block one plot was grazed only in winter, one only in summer, and one year round. All plots had a density of 0.7 sheep/ha. Vegetation height was measured twice a year between 1989 and 1995 at 40 random locations using a sward stick.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1990-1996 in two moorland sites in Derbyshire, UK (Welch et al. 1998) found that restricting grazing to summer or winter had mixed effects on grass cover in and the cover of crowberry Empetrum nigrum, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, and heather Calluna vulgaris. In one site and after six years, grass cover was higher after restricting grazing (77%) than before grazing restriction (75%), while in another site it was lower (after: 62%, before: 81%). Over the same period, the cover of grass in plots with year-round grazing declined (from 77% to 52%). In one site, cover of crowberry was higher after restricting grazing (13%) than before grazing restriction (5%). In one site, cover of bilberry was lower after restricting grazing (50%) than before grazing restriction (68%), whereas cover of heather was higher after restricting grazing (28%) than before restriction (20%). Over the same period, the cover of bilberry in plots with year-round grazing also declined (from 73% to 56%). In each site, sheep were excluded by fencing from four areas of 25 m x 20 m during a six-month period over summer (April to October) or winter (October to April) and two nearby areas had year-round grazing. Vegetation height and cover was recorded annually in August.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Martin P.A., Rocha R., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2018) Shrubland and Heathland Conservation. Pages 447-494 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2018. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation - Published 2017

Shrubland and Heathland synopsis

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation assesses the research looking at whether interventions are beneficial or not. It is based on summarised evidence in synopses, on topics such as amphibians, bats, biodiversity in European farmland, and control of freshwater invasive species. More are available and in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
Our Journal: Conservation Evidence

Our Journal:
Conservation Evidence

A unique, free to publish open-access journal publishing research and case studies that measure the effects of conservation actions.

Read latest volume: Volume 16

Special issues: Amphibian special issue

Go to the Journal

Subscribe to our newsletter

Please add your details if you are interested in receiving updates from the Conservation Evidence team about new papers, synopses and opportunities.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust