Pärnu may see return of seaside cattle grazing

Cattle (photo is illustrative).
Cattle (photo is illustrative). Source: Ricardo Kivikas

Authorities in the southwestern Estonian town of Pärnu are keen to reinstate the grazing of cattle on coastal meadows near the town, after a year's hiatus, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Tuesday.

The land is put out to tender to potentially interested farmers.

Pärnu deputy mayor Irina Talviste told AK that: "It's true that this' year's tender didn't go well, as after looking at what local residents thought, the attitude turned out not to be the most positive. This definitely affected the results of our procurement, as well. In the autumn, however, we will review all our conditions so that the tender gets issued earlier, so that the breeders can get acquainted with the conditions; then the herds will definitely come," said Pärnu Deputy Mayor Irina Talviste.

The practice, which has been in place for over a decade, has led to a rise in the abundance of various species of birds, proponents argue, while the complete removal of the cows would spell "disaster", according to the Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet) and would undo all the benefits of the previous years' grazing.

Gunnar Sein, head of the Environmental Board's land management office, told AK that: "The open beach meadow habitat is covered with reeds, but the more years reedbeds are left untended, the more unsuitable the area becomes to species native to beach meadows."

One example of such a species is the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus, or Kiivitaja in Estonian, an onomatopoeic term deriving from the bird's call and similar to the English "peewit", an alternative name for the bird).

Lapwing numbers saw a significant rise as a result of the grazing efforts, meaning their removal would result in a concomitant fall in numbers, Sein added.

At the same time, work is hard, beef cattle breeder Siim Suitsmart told the show, since the herds have to be checked up on during the day as well as being physically brought to pasture.

Rising tides or high winds can also led to cattle getting stuck in the water, requiring their rescue, he added.

The initiative began in September 2010 and was overseen by the Environmental Board, but from 2012-2016 it was supported by the EU's Life+ project.

Since then, support has been domestic again, funneled via the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA).

Talk of the cows' presence affecting the quality of seawater in Pärnu Bay is unsubstantiated, AK reported.

The original AK slot (in Estonian) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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