Nature Policy, Large Ecosystems
von H. Kampf, Wageningen / Niederlande
10. Organisations and costs
10.1 Grazing management plan
If you want to try grazing as a management tool, it is advisable to develop a grazing management plan; separate or as a part of broader management plan. The aims of a grazing management plan are, amongst other things, to find out the ecologically most suitable grazing system.
Questions involved are:
10.2 Costs of grazing management
For grazing management money must be spent on cattle grids and fences, visitor facilities, a catch corral and sometimes drinking water supplies.
Fences are always required. The strength depends on the species to be kept in and on the surrounding area. Fences around 'Oostvaardersplassen' with its red deer, Heck cattle and Konik horses are heavy, with openings for roe deer and fox.
'Imbosch', on the other hand, is fenced with a simple fence, as it must not be a barrier for red and roe deer and other animals. The area is part of the Veluwe, which covers 100,000 ha, whereas 'Oostvaardersplassen' is close to agricultural land and is bordered by a railway which is why stronger fences are needed. Fences for cattle only are much cheaper. Even movable fences are possible.
If third-party cattle is used, there are no acquisition costs for the manager, no (financial) risks, but no profit either. Some managers opt for their own cattle, others prefer to contract farmers with their cattle. There seems to be a growing interest among farmers with suckling cows, certainly if they are farming near a nature area.
The an integrated farm where arable production serves livestock production is ideal. Herb-rich fields and meadow-bird areas fertilised by manure from the herd. Both nature areas and farms, provided they are organic, may supply consumers with high-quality products. However, the added value of such products should be put to best advantage, both in terms of marketing and finance.
On balance, grazing management can be much cheaper than mechanical management. The exact amount depends on the type of grazing used and the yield, which is to be optimised.
With this slide I want to give you an idea about the costs of setting up a grazing area. It is clear, that the larger the area is the lower the costs per hectare. That is certainly true for fences, but also for other investments. I cannot say much about the actual amounts involved as prices of materials and labour vary.
Farmers usually pay a lease of about $ 50 - 100 per ha for grazing areas. Whether such a lease is financially feasible for them depends on the size of the area (can you manage 300 cows with one or two men, or only 25 cows?) and the price of beef. With a yearly production of 300 kg meat per cow, one dollar more or less per kg of meat for a herd of 300 animals comes to $ 90,000.
To ensure a good price, it is very important to promote the meats quality, for example by producing under the organic label or other quality schemes. A farmers income is also determined by the costs of buildings, the quality of buildings with respect to labour conditions, the level of debts and eligibility for European subsidies.
The cheapest method to achieve natural grazing would be to make agreements with local farmers. Instead of having to pay for mowing, turf-cutting, or the like, the area might yield a small profit for the land owner. In self-sustaining areas, it is better to own the cattle, particularly if there is no production aim (meat). The initial purchase is rather expensive, but in the years that follow the population will just grow.
Also a combination seems possible between a large farm and the management of a large nature area, as this sketch indicates.