Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)
UPDATED in 2013
UL23 Management of upland grassland for birds
37 points per ha

Diverse sward provides opportunities for feeding and breeding birds


This option is only available on SDA land below the Moorland Line. It can only be used on whole-fields.

This option will benefit breeding birds and other wildlife on upland grassland. Permanent grassland managed with no fertiliser has a higher value for wildlife. Different types of birds prefer different vegetation heights, so a variety in the sward structure is most beneficial. This option may also deliver benefits to resource protection where placed on fields that are at risk of soil erosion or run-off.

Wading birds, such as lapwing, snipe, redshank and curlew, or other priority species such as whinchat and grasshopper warbler, must be known to breed on, or in close proximity to, the site. Bird distribution maps can be found at www.natureonthemap.org.uk.

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • Maintain as grass. Do not plough, cultivate or re-seed.
  • Manage by grazing only. Limit the daily level of stocking between 1 April and 30 June to a maximum of 0.6 LUs per hectare. This equates with 7.5 ewes plus lambs at foot or 0.6 beef cow and calf.
  • Maintain a sward with a range of heights during the growing season. At least 20 per cent of the sward should be less than 7 cm and at least 20 per cent should be more than 7 cm to allow some plants to flower and to provide a more varied habitat.
  • Do not top at any time, except in patches to control injurious weeds (ie creeping and spear thistles, curled and broad-leaved docks or common ragwort); invasive non-native species (eg Himalayan balsam, rhododendron or Japanese knotweed); or bracken.
  • Do not harrow or roll between 1 April and 30 June.
  • Supplementary feeding is permitted. Do not feed on or next to archaeological features, steep slopes, footpaths or watercourses. Move all feeding sites regularly to minimise damage to vegetation and soils.
  • Do not apply fertiliser, manure or slag.
  • You may continue adding lime, where this is your regular practice, but not between 1 April and 1 August.
  • Cut rush-dominated fields each year, but not between 1 April and 31 July. Cut no more than a third of the area of rushes in each field, or a third of the fields if they are small (ie less than 3 ha), in rotation. It may be impractical to cut rushes in the wettest flushes, and therefore these can be left. Cattle trampling may help to control these areas.
  • Once cut, if aftermath grazing does not control rushes, a second cut should be carried out within 8 weeks, but not between 1 April and 1 August.
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