European meadow bird populations are declining. In the Netherlands, particularly the black-tailed godwit and lapwing show reduced breeding success and limited chick survival because of increased predation, urbanization and agricultural intensification. In order to increase breeding success and chick survival, farmers are compensated for implementing conservation measures, including delayed first harvest until 1, 8 or 15 June. These measures help to create a period of rest with enough shelter against predators and sufficient food availability for the chicks. However, this delayed harvest results in a heavy grass crop, which limits chick mobility and feeding success, but also negatively affects forage quality and regrowth. In the current experiment we tested the effect of pre-grazing until 1 or 8 May on the yield, sward density (% cover at soil surface) and nutritive value of the grass harvested at a delayed harvest. Pre-grazing significantly reduced the average herbage dry matter (DM) yield from 7 t ha-1 to 4.6 and 3.2 ton DM ha-1 (1 and 8 May, respectively). The sward density after the delayed harvest was 18% higher with pre-grazing, and both the energy and protein content were higher. In conclusion, pre-grazing is a good tool to prevent some of the problems associated with delayed harvests under meadow bird conservation management.
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Taal van het document: Engels
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Keywords in English: grazing, meadowbird conservation, sward density, herbage yield, nutritive value