On the 11th and 12th of April the German Nature organization NABU organized a workshop on risk management of grazing projects. Reason was the tragic drowning of Heck cattle and konik horses during in 2013 floods of the German Elbe river. FREE Nature shared Dutch experiences and together with representatives of Natural England provided an outside view.
All over Germany one can find natural grazing projects, some of which are managed by the NABU. From all over the country site managers joined to discuss risk management protocols.
Compared to the Dutch situation, German regulations are a bit more stringent. For example site managers are obliged to see their animals at least once a day. German rules have been designed to the practices of industrial or intensive livestock management and do not always suit natural grazing management and rewilding practices. By law free ranging cattle and horses are seen as domestic animals and not as wildlife. To make things even more complicated, rules might differ between federal states. The Dutch exemption to not ear tack calves within a few days (but has to be done at a later moment and DNA analyses must prove lineage) within larger nature reserve does not exist in Germany.
FREE Nature expressed using social herds including experienced animals which have seen it all before. Also examples of herd management during flooding along the Dutch rivers were showcased. The English system which grants animals rights to certain freedoms instead of being based on obligations and regulations is a good example on how laws better connect to management practices.
Over the coming months, NABU staff will process all input and meet with veterinarians, law enforces and policy makers to explore further possibilities to better adapt regulations and protocols to natural grazing management en rewilding practices.