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Assessment of biomass nutritive value in the context of animal welfare and conservation of selected Natura 2000 habitats (4030, 6120 and 6210) in eastern Poland

Kulik, Mariusz, Patkowski, Krzysztof, Warda, Marianna, Lipiec, Antoni, Bojar, Wiktor, Gruszecki, Tomasz M.
Global ecology and conservation 2019 v.19 pp. e00675
animal welfare, biomass, chalk grasslands, ecosystems, extinction, feed supplements, grazing, habitats, humans, malnutrition, nutritive value, pastures, sand, secondary succession, sheep, sheep breeds, species diversity, stocking rate, Poland
The analyses were carried out between 2016 and 2017 in eastern Poland in three areas of high nature value: 4030 European dry heaths (Fig. 1), 6120 Xeric sand calcareous grasslands (Fig. 2) and 6210 Semi-natural dry grasslands on calcareous substrates (Fig. 3). These three habitats are dry grasslands threatened with extinction. They are semi-natural ecosystems dependent on some human intervention, which formerly grazed by livestock, mowed or burnt. However, due to the low production value, they were first excluded from use, which affected their disappearance. Investigations were performed to explore the vegetation, the yield and nutritional value of biomass in relation to the dietary welfare of sheep which can be used to prevent secondary succession in those habitats.The best grazing performance was identified in the case of local sheep breeds, e.g. the Świniarka Sheep. The maximum stocking density in the analysed sites – from the beginning of the season to the end of June – should not be higher than 1 LSU (Livestock Unit) per 1 ha of pasture. Excluding this grazing period, further use of the analysed sites required constant feed supplementation for the animals, with the time spent by them in the grazing site and their stocking density strictly monitored to avoid undernutrition and excessive damage to the vegetation. The species composition, yielding and nutritional value of the biomass indicate semi-natural dry grasslands on calcareous substrates (6210 habitat) as the most propitious for grazing in the context of animal welfare.