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Meadow management

Walton Hall Meadow
Taking an annual hay cut at the right time of year is critical to maintain both the quality of the hay, and the diversity of wildflowers (Photo credit: Alan Markham).

The majority of floodplain meadows are cut for hay and then grazed with livestock. The vegetation is allowed to grow up in the spring, and is cut in late June/early July. The aftermath (re-growth of vegetation following the hay cut) is then grazed by livestock from August/September until the ground becomes too wet in the autumn or winter. In some cases, livestock return to the meadow in the early spring until it is shut up for hay in March/April.

Objectives

The key objective for conserving species rich floodplain meadows is to maintain or improve these plant communties, whilst maintaining and enhancing populations of other groups such as invertebrates or breeding birds, and to ensure a good quality hay crop. The following management objectives to acheive these aims are:

  1. An annual hay cut in late June or early July;
  2. livestock grazing to remove the re-growth of grass fro August trhough to early spring, or until the site becomes too wet;
  3. management of hedgerows to prevent encroachment of scrub;
  4. maintenance of grazing infrastructure such as fencing, stock handling and drinking points;
  5. control of weeds or undesirable species such as ragwort, sedges and creeping thistle;
  6. maintencance of ditches, gutters and surface drains.

More information can be found in our management chapter (chapter 9) in the Floodplain Meadows Handbook. Or use these links for further information on hay cutting and grazing, soil and nutrients.