'Conservation grazing' is the use of grazing animals to manage and preserve threatened habitats including heathlands, chalk downs, unimproved meadows and pastures, to encourage the wildlife that they support. Without grazing, or some other kind of management, these habitats would revert to scrub and woodland and their biodiversity would be lost.
Shetland Sheep are ideal candidates for such grazing. They are extremely hardy, self-sufficient, versatile foragers and thrive on low quality rough grassland and scrubland. They are browsers as well as grazers and will eat regenerating scrub such as Birch. They do not need large amounts of expensive concentrates during the winter months and are easy to handle and manage. They are good attentive mothers and can lamb outside with little need for intervention.
Their fine-boned build and small feet mean that they do less damage to grasses and meadow plants than heavier breeds.
For those farms which enter into Natural England's stewardship schemes, the Shetland is a listed native breed which qualifies for payments.
Over the last few years they have become well established in many conservation schemes such as those run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the Essex Wildlife Trust.