Llyn Penninsular Heathland pilot success spreads to other areas
The project organisers, which include The National Trust, CCW, the Welsh Government and the Llyn Sustainable Development Fund (managed by Gwynedd Council), hope participating graziers will not only see a drop in the amount spent on bedding costs but will also optimise the productivity of common land that over recent times have fallen into poor management and condition.
The £1.7m project was launched in 2011 and implemented this spring on six upland commons, involving 15-20 graziers on the Llyn Penninsular using heather and gorse cuttings using the projects own Ryetec flail collector.
Farmers' taking part in the pilot project have seen a dramatic decrease in their bedding costs as the heathland cuttings are used instead. On top of the hours saved on bedding over winter sheds, the average participant say their bedding costs fall from £750-£2,500 on straw per year to between £0 to £150.
"It's a win-win situation," said Arwel Jones, project manager for the Llyn Landscape Partnership Project.
"With the loss of headage payments, many of the commons have seen a dramatic decline in grazing animals in recent years," said Mr Jones. "As a result there has been a significant deterioration in their size and condition.
"If the project is to succeed, the sites have to be managed and used effectively within farming systems in the future."
Key elements include the removal of suffocating gorse, greater control of gorse burning and the re-introduction of heavy animals, such as cattle and ponies, to Llyn's commons.
Harvested gorse was then offered to participating graziers for use as livestock bedding and now a number of farmers are keen to become part of the project and use a material that was once hand-cut by their forefathers.
As the Llyn Landscape project offers no direct inducements, improved returns is seen as a major incentive.