EPICENTRE - the newsletter for Exmoor Ponies in Conservation

Exmoor Ponies in Conservation Newsletter

Issue 1 Article 7

SUFFOLK GOES TO EXMOOR

Since April of this year we have been busy establishing the Exmoor Pony Grazing Project at Knettishall Heath. This approach followed a Grazing Project Review, which I completed in March.

I think that the establishment of the EPIC will do a great deal to promote the wider use of Exmoors in the management of semi-natural habitats. I have found the Exmoor Pony Society to be very helpful during the establishment of our project and agree that affiliation is a sensible way forward for the association.

Although our grazing project has only been running for five months, my initial assessment is that pony grazing is very effective and there is no doubt that the Exmoor has an important role to play in conservation management projects. We currently have seven Exmoors, with our first foal being born only last week. After some deliberation, we opted for a mixed grazing regime, combining the pony herd with a small flock of Hebridean sheep. This mixed system has been particularly effective in controlling Ragwort, which the ponies avoided but the sheep consumed in its early stages of growth.

We are committed to a breeding programme and I think the association would certainly help provide an outlet for ponies, by encouraging more site to use Exmoors as part of their grazing regimes. In this respect, I think we have some way to go in convincing organisations and site managers that native ponies are a credible grazing animal, with considerable advantages over commercial livestock.

With regard to stocking rates for pony grazing, the association would be ideally placed to pool existing knowledge and provide guidelines for future recording. I have set up a simple site grazing data base, to record the duration of grazing per compartment and livestock unit density per acre.

To conclude, I think the formation of the EPIC association is an excellent idea and Suffolk County Council would certainly wish to become involved and support your initiative.

by Steven Grimshaw Knettishall Heath Country Park Warden

N.B.David Mansell Sec. E.P.S. has told us that he is looking into the possibility of making EPIC an E.P.S affiliated association, and hopes to present the idea to committee shortly. Ed