The management of grass pastures for brent geese.
Encouraging geese onto pasture where they cause less conflict with agriculture than when on arable crops was investigated. The grazing intensity of wintering brent geese (Branta bernicla) was monitored on areas of grass pasture in Essex that had been managed experimentally under different cutting, grazing and fertilizer regimes. There were no significant differences in the grazing intensity of brent geese between treatments in the following experimental comparisons: cutting for silage or sheep grazing or cutting and aftermath grazing with sheep; grazing with cattle or grazing with sheep; or cutting 2, 3, 4 or 5 times/year. The physical structure and composition of swards resulting from management under the different regimes were very similar. The height of all the swards in Oct. was <5-6 cm and the biomass of live grass, the live:dead ratio of grass, the tiller density and individual tiller weight varied little between the different regimes. The species composition of a sward managed for 2 years by sheep grazing, cutting for silage or cutting and aftermath sheep grazing also varied little between treatments. The application of fertilizer at a rate of 50 kg N/ha significantly increased the use of the sward by brent geese compared with areas left unfertilized. The application of fertilizer at a lower rate (18 kg N/ha) had no significant effect. There was no difference between the use of areas treated with organic compared with inorganic fertilizer. The protein content of the sward was significantly higher in fertilized than in unfertilized control areas and in sheep grazed swards compared with swards managed by cutting for silage. These consequences of these results in terms of the management of alternative feeding areas for brent geese and their cost effectiveness are discussed.