Cheviot Futures

United in a Changing Landscape

GrassProtecta on trial plot 1, Alwinton Farm. Shown on day of installation, September 2011

Reducing poaching around livestock feeding points

Coquet Valley

Cheviot Futures is trialling an innovative solution to the age-old problem of ground poaching by livestock around ring feeders.
Wetter winters are likely to mean that poaching becomes more of an issue, along with the potential for more cattle to be wintered outdoors to save on management costs.

We are trialling the use of 'GrassProtecta' - a plastic matting product, incorporating an element of recycled plastics, as an option to reduce the effect of poaching around feeding sites.

Working in partnership with local farmers and Catchment Sensitive Farming, we hope to prove that such materials work, along with a consideration of sustainable feeding practices. Guidance notes will be developed to guide land managers as to the least environmentally damaging sites to feed, and how to manage feeding areas to reduce the diffuse pollution risk to watercourses etc.

The trial will compare the use of the product in a number of scenarios, across three farm holdings:
-haughland site, used by continental cattle
- haughland site used by sheep
- hill site used by traditional-type cattle
- in bye site, used by continental bulls

A number of trial plots were put in place and utilised throughout the 2011-12 winter feeding season across the three farms involved with the trial.

The results of the first season trialling, including valuable feedback direct from the farmers involved has led to the following early conclusions:
- the approach is less effective with sheep as the level of wasted fodder provides a similar action.
- the approach is effective at reducing poaching depth with cattle, preventing the animals sinking to significant depths in muddy ground
- the effects on compaction were not as significant as expected, and in some cases compacted layers were moved upwards in the soil profile
- the plot size trialled for sheep was suitable
- the plot size trialled for cattle was too small

A summary and full season 1 report has been prepared and is available upon request from Cheviot Futures or local CSF officers.

Reccomendations from the season one report are being implemented for the second winter feeding season of 2012-13, although wet ground conditions have made it difficult to install the additional plots.
We hope to install the plots and make use of them again before the end of the feeding season, although advance regeneration of grass growth will be limited.

Please see the case study below for further information.