Grazing Meadows Appeal

Please help protect West Dorset’s magnificent meadows by helping us to raise £19,000

England & Wales have witnessed a shocking 97% decline in wildlife-rich grassland since the 1930s ­ a total loss of 64,000 sq. km.  These grasslands, more commonly referred to as wildflower meadows, are now amongst the most threatened wildlife habitats in the country.

In Dorset, grasslands are still a major feature in our beautiful landscape. The county boasts stunning chalk downs, flower-rich clay meadows and lush wet grasslands in river valleys.

Dorset Wildlife Trust has developed a conservation grazing programme, using our own flock and herd, which has helped conserve the landscape and improve the wildlife of our grassland nature reserves in West Dorset.  Conservation grazing is a recognised way of controlling scrub and encouraging more wildlife-friendly flowers and grasses to grow, which creates habitats favoured by many insects, butterflies and ground-nesting birds.

It’s been an outstanding success and though this is the most economic way to manage these sites it is still a costly operation. Unfortunately, though successful, funding from a donor has come to an end and so this vital conservation work is in dire need of continued support. We urgently need to raise £19,000.

Your support is urgently needed. By donating today you can help to maintain this unique grazing programme, protecting West Dorset’s picturesque but threatened grassland sites and allowing traditional wildflower meadows to flourish.

Debbie Watkins
West Dorset Living Landscape Area Manager

Click on the tabs above to read more and find out how you can help.


Kingcombe Cattle © Maurits Fontein

Kingcombe Cattle © Maurits Fontein


Grazing is best

Hundreds of years ago, people cleared the land of trees to form open spaces for farming.  Grazing animals helped to shape many of the semi-natural habitats, which developed rich and diverse wildlife communities.  The survival of these communities now depends on continued supportive management of the land and grazing is crucial to maintain grasslands.

Dorset Wildlife Trust has been using conservation grazing to manage its grassland nature reserves in West Dorset because it is the most effective, natural and economical way to maintain them and the huge variety of plants and animals they support.

How conservation grazing works

Cattle grazing creates a diverse structure to grassland, encouraging a wide range of wild flowers to colonise the gaps and hoof marks made by the animals and rare butterflies to live in the grass tussocks.  Sheep grazing is perfect for providing the right conditions for some rare fungi species and helps with weed and scrub control on our organic pastures.

Flower-rich meadows need late summer grazing to prevent dead vegetation building up and hindering the following season’s new growth. By continuing to graze in a controlled way, we also stop the spread of invasive scrub and bracken and allow the growth of more vulnerable plants, like orchids.

After a few years of annual rotation grazing, wildflowers can flourish, producing spectacular floral displays every summer.


Cattle © Maurits Fontein

Cattle © Maurits Fontein



Managing our reserves with livestock

Changing farming practices and a general reduction in livestock numbers mean that it is increasingly hard to find local farmers to help graze grassland sites, especially the more isolated ones on difficult terrain, like our West Dorset nature reserves.

So the management of our land here is largely carried out by our own four-legged friends. By owning livestock we can ensure that suitable animals are available to provide the necessary grazing at the right time.

Whilst they are hardy creatures we do need to care for them and ensure they continue to undertake the essential role of keeping our grassland sites in the way wildlife likes them, particularly for species like the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly, our scarce grassland wildflowers and wax cap fungi.

Dorset Wildlife Trust’s livestock

We chose hardy, native breeds to graze and manage our land, as they cope well with any difficult terrain and less lush grazing. They are also less prone to the diseases and ailments that affect commercial breeds and love living outdoors for most of the year.

We also need to breed our own livestock so they acquire resistance to redwater disease (Bovine babesiosis). This is a tick-borne disease which is more prevalent in bracken-rich grassland areas, like Kingcombe Meadows.


Sheep © Maurits Fontein

Sheep © Maurits Fontein




Livestock costs

The annual cost for ensuring our livestock are fit and well comes to £19,000, with sheep costing about £20/head per year and cows £70/head per year.

Veterinary and medical bills

The costs of various medicines, tests, diagnoses, vaccinations and treatments for a variety of conditions come to around £3,500 a year.

Purchasing livestock

We regularly have to purchase bulls and rams to ensure they don’t serve their own daughters. Our annual livestock purchases are £4,000.

Ear tags & shearing

For traceability and to comply with EU regulations every sheep and cow has to have two ear tags and our sheep need shearing each year. These costs come to £400.

Feed & bedding

We spend around £5,000 a year on straw to keep our animals warm when they are brought indoors during winter. Each year we purchase additional feed for the animals; hard feed for the cows to improve their condition for calving and milk production costs £3,000 and forage costs a further £3,000.



Kingcombe Cattle © Maurits Fontein

Kingcombe Cattle © Maurits Fontein


How you can help

With your support we can develop a sustainable future for our West Dorset
conservation grazing programme and avoid having to use less effective,
labour intensive and more expensive methods of habitat management.

Please give as much as you can afford.


As we went to print with this appeal, a parcel of land came onto the market that will link our Kingcombe Meadows and Powerstock Common nature reserves in West Dorset.  If we raise more income than our target for this appeal, we will put the additional money towards the cost of purchasing this plot of land.




Kingcombe Cattle © Maurits Fontein

Kingcombe Cattle © Maurits Fontein






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