Support for livestock farmers is vital for long-term sustainable management of limestone grassland in the Cotswolds. This is one of the main conclusions of a study by The Cotswolds Conservation Board.

Entitled: "A Limestone Grasslands Strategy for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 2005 - 2009" the report recommends: "Supporting livestock farmers by providing information on the opportunities and processes of diversification, direct marketing and grant support is essential."

Limestone grasslands are defined as species-rich, agriculturally unimproved grasslands occurring on limestone soils. They have been identified as being of national importance as a habitat for rare plant species.

But, over the past sixty years, Cotswold grassland has suffered from loss, lack of management and fragmentation. The biggest influence was changes in farming practices aimed at maximising food production after the Second World War.

Some of the remaining grasslands have become overgrown with scrub and coarse grasses and others have been lost altogether.

Livestock grazing, in particular by cattle, is vital for the conservation of limestone grassland. But recent changes in agricultural policy, affecting farming support, may impact on the availability of cattle for conservation grazing and long-term sustainable management of the grasslands.

Many of the largest remaining areas of limestone grassland in the Cotswolds are historic commons that were protected from the plough by their status as Common land. These are enjoyed by many people as public open spaces for a variety of recreational. These areas give an opportunity of raising awareness of the importance of limestone grassland.

View the Grassland Strategy as a pdf or telephone 01451 862000 to order a copy.