Sheep, geese and cows to improve biodiversity at local vineyard
National Highways’ Lower Thames Crossing project has awarded Vineyard Farms in Gravesend, Kent, £350,000 of designated funds to support a conservation grazing project.
Vineyard Farms are part of the Silverhand Estate in Luddesdown village, Gravesend Kent. At around 700 hectares it is the largest organic vineyard in the country and is made up of wildflower meadows which house rare orchids, pastures and woodlands.
Conservation Grazing is the use of animals to maintain and improve the biodiversity of land, making it more suitable for a wide range of wildlife to live there in different habitats.
Geese, sheep and cows will feed off the land, improving and maintaining biodiversity, without losing food production land. There will also be a long term breeding programme to maintain the conservation grazing.
Why conservation grazing?
Animals have different diets and ways of feeding which creates good conditions for wildlife. For example, cows feed by wrapping their tongues around the plants and pulling them up, leaving behind patches of vegetation of different heights, whilst sheep tend to nibble the vegetation, and create shorter areas.
These different lengths allow many types of plants, wildflowers and insects to establish themselves. The breed of the animals used; Longhorn Cows and Kent Romney sheep are British breeds which are more suited to the landscape. Embden geese are used as they are hardy and feed on very short grass, which helps to maintain the areas in between the grape vines. The manure from the livestock, especially cows, is also a great source of nutrients for plants and insects such as worms, which increases the food available for birds.
The funding from National Highways Designated Funds will pay for an all terrain vehicle (ATV) to help to access the livestock and the infrastructure to support the livestock. This includes fencing repairs across the estate and wildlife towers, which are small buildings that provide nesting and hibernation opportunities for a range of wildlife, such as barn owls, bats, and invertebrates. Events, which will be open to the public such as workshops have also been funded.
"Thanks to the funding from National Highways, we are now able to manage our wildflower meadows using sheep and cattle and show the public this important natural resource"Will Moreno, Vineyard Farms