knowledge and experience

So many ecologists, so many opinions, it seems. Also about natural grazing. Questions about the type of grazer, the breed, the advantages and disadvantages of natural herds, grazing density, grazers as ‘glorified mowers’ or as part of the ecosystem, the relationship between grazers and predators, are they safe and what is the effect on biodiversity? Numerous, legitimate questions that landowners have when they consider starting grazing. But also questions that arise in evaluations. Through our years of experience, we have all encountered these questions before. We can respond depending on the nature of the site and the wishes of the site owner.

Years of experience in the field

We were at the basis of the development of ideas about natural grazing in the 1970s and 1980s. We started with our first herds of large grazers in the early 1990s and never stopped. We have shit on our hands and so we know from experience what works and what doesn’t. Our theoretical knowledge of natural grazing has evolved alongside our experiences in the field. Thanks to our years of experience and acquired knowledge, we are able to read the landscape and know how grazers will use it. Based on a conversation and a site visit, we are able to provide very targeted, tailor-made advice. That combination of knowledge and skills is our strength.

The impact of complex behavior

Cattle in a stable have very limited freedom of movement. If they go outside at all, they are allowed to graze fenced off strips of homogeneous perennial ryegrass. And the flocks are homogenous: animals of the same sex and age. The bulls never go outside and rarely live longer than six months. This means that the ability to express complex behavior is very limited.

The more freedom you give animals and herds, the more complex behavior arises. The animals use their intelligence to survive and have to be here today and there tomorrow. This produces complex patterns in the terrain and therefore more variation in vegetation structures and ultimately in biodiversity. Rougher areas become a haven for mice, which in turn attract short-eared owls and other raptors.

The bull pit

The bull pit is one of the most striking examples. Bull pits are caused by the hormone-driven digging activities of (particularly) bulls. They throw up sand with their heads and horns and thus ensure the permanent presence of pioneer stages: sandy spots in the grazed landscape. Countless digger bees and wasps find their dynamic biotope there. Without bulls (several in a group) no digging bees and wasps. And also fewer pioneer plants such as poppies. The bull pits move through the landscape. As the bulls and their horns get bigger, the pits move faster through the landscape. They slowly grow closed again at the back. Testosterone in the landscape means more biodiversity.

Size matters

Our years of experience with grazing have yielded a simple basic rule: size matters. The size of herds, the size of individual animals and the size of their horns in vast landscapes mean that their impact is greater than in the case of smaller herds in smaller areas or with polled (hornless) breeds. We see that our adult Tauros bulls – weighing up to 1,200 kg – go through a forest like a bulldozer, creating and maintaining much more openness than, for example, a much smaller galloway.

The size of the horns also matters. Bulls and cows use them not only as a means of communication, but also as tools. And not just for themselves: we regularly see bulls bending a young tree with their massive horns so that the rest of the herd can benefit from the juicy leaves that they otherwise cannot reach.
This also applies to herd size. Larger herds move through the landscape like a mega vacuum cleaner, with a high impact on the vegetation, which is then given the opportunity to recover. But this is only possible in larger landscapes in which herds can actually display their natural migratory behavior.

Size matters also when large predators are in play. Wolves – even if there are dozens of them, as in Croatia where a herd of Taurus grazes on the Likaplains – keep a respectable distance as the herds form a large circle at night with the horns pointing outwards and the vulnerable animals in the middle. We see mutualism occurring there: other species that seek the protection of that ring of horns, such as horses, but also rowdeer.

Come by, look and talk

We have countless examples like this ready. But instead of writing a website about it, we invite you to come and take a look and see that complex behavior of large animals in large herds produces biodiversity. We are happy to show you around from our Rewilding Center in Keent.