Managing grasslands

Managing grasslands

An annual management regime is important to maintaining and developing permanent grasslands. Grasslands are normally managed as either pastures (animal grazing) or hay meadows and it is these activities that have helped to shape our countryside and make it what it is today.


Traditional pasture management involves grazing by sheep or cattle. Although management and stocking rates will vary according to site specifics, this usually involves light grazing in the spring and summer. It is not possible for all pastures to be managed in this way nor should they necessarily. If you are interested in finding out about a number of other ways of managing your pasture with wildlife in mind then please see our conservation grazing leaflet. This features information on livestock choices, timing and stocking rates etc.

For further reading and links about pasture management please click here.

Horses and ponies have an increasingly important role to play in managing and encouraging wildflower rich meadows. This relationship is mutually beneficial to both horses and wildlife because managing your grassland to enhance your horse’s health and wellbeing will also, as a side effect, encourage wildlife. This is because the dietary requirements of horses differ from other herbivores; they require high fibres and minerals and low proteins and sugars – in contrast to modern breeds of dairy or beef cattle. Wildflower grasslands contain a variety of grasses and wildflowers which cater very well for the specific dietary requirements of horses, both through direct grazing and as hay. Further guidelines to horse pasture management can be found by clicking here.

Hay Meadows

Traditional hay meadow management involves hay cutting in late July after most of the finer-leaved grasses and wildflowers have set seed and then grazing the re-growth from September until the soil becomes too wet, usually in November or December.

On some sites, aftermath grazing may not be possible, maybe because it is unfenced or it is too small or inaccessible for livestock to be a practical option. In these cases cutting should be delayed until after mid-July when most of the wild flowers have set seed. The arisings should be removed to prevent wildflower seedlings being smothered and a nutrient build-up in the soil.

For further reading and links about meadow management please click here.

Chloe Granger

Admin at Cut & Chew
The admin of the Cut and Chew website, and activist for improving the UK grazing landscape.

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