Hill Sheep Husbandry in England: Adaptive to change in diverse ecosystems. A guide for all who hold an interest in land management on England’s hills. Andrew Humphries MBE PhD.
England’s hills mean different things to different people and face unprecedented expectations from an increasing range of stakeholders. Yet our hills are not what we see but what lies in our heads. Food production, biodiversity, clean water, landscape present a complex of interacting outcomes. Understanding is concerned with having the knowledge and comprehension to inform reasoned decisions. Stakeholder interdependence is a necessity not an option if we are to ‘improve’ and make things better for future generations.
Hill sheep husbandry has been a key process of social and cultural significant which has ‘land-shaped’ English hills continuously since Neolithic times. Careful management and wise husbandry are at the heart of the structure, diversity and functioning of upland terrestrial ecosystems. Hill farmers are paradoxically resilient yet fragile and vulnerable. Grazing has been relegated to discussions about its impact on other outcomes. This publication seeks to present a more informed view of hill sheep nutrition. The diversity of grazing units emphasises the difficulty of prescription and the need for site specific solutions. Combining purposeful hill farming with the delivery of high value public goods is an outcome worthy of our best efforts.
This guide presents a set of principles of hill sheep husbandry but recognises that practice must necessarily be flexible, comprising a combination of art and science; providing for particular sheep, in particular places, at particular times. The evolution of hill sheep husbandry is described and analysed as a set of key principles. The relationship between soils, vegetation and grazing are examined including an overview of the nutritional value of commonly grazed plants. All aspects are illustrated by reference to science and development studies supported with illustrations. pp. viii, 78. Foundation for Common Land, 2015.
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