Flerding is also dryly called 'multi-species grazing'. The idea behind it is simple.
Nature is diverse and complex and, unlike in farming, there is never a single or monoculture species. Many folks are aware of monoculture crops in agriculture such as an arable crop of wheat or barley or a horticultural field of cabbages. We tend to forget about monocultures when it comes to livestock, but in a similar way 'a flock of sheep' or 'a herd of cattle' is also a monoculture.
Flerding was designed to be a form of livestock management that resembles what happens in the wild. If you think of the last few wild herds of the world, they consist of a mix of animals. For example, you would find zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, impala and wart hogs in Kenya or wisent, deer and wild boar in Poland.
By mixing the species together, research in the US has found that they utilise far more of the pasture and hedge forage and don't compete with each other due to differing taste preferences. This results in increased diversity of pasture plants, which over time translates to improved soil health.
At Village Farm we notice the pigs prefer the legumes (clover and the like), the sheep will graze the grass and herbs, and the goats like to eat the woody shrubs.
We also practise Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG) at Village Farm. That means our animals graze a fresh paddock everyday and don't return to the same area of pasture for roughly four months. By that point the land is clean again as HPG has positive impact on parasite control and faecal egg counts have backed this observation up. When we researched flerding or multi species mixed grazing, all the recommended advice was to also practise HPG as well and never to set stock on a pasture for a prolonged period.
We personally think it also makes for a wonderful unusual, yet strangely natural sight, and gives us a lot of joy watching their often comical interactions.
Follow Village Farm on Facebook where you will see beauitful wildlife photography and interesting facts.
For more information on regenerative agriculture, check out Village Farm's website where you can also buy their 'maritime mutton' and 'coastal shearling lamb'. Rebecca Hosking will be speaking at the Oxford Real Farming Conerference in January 2016.
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