Last update: 17.05.2019

Experience exchange trip to Ķemeri National park and Lake Engure Nature park

Local people of Dviete floodplain and it's vicinity, land-owners and representatives of DVIETE LIFE+ project team from the Latvian Fund for Nature, Ilūkste municipality and Elm Media went for an experience exchange trip to Ķemeri National park and Lake Engure Nature park on October 18-19, 2012. The aim of the trip was to exchange experience of grassland grazing in the areas, were grazing was initiated within implemented LIFE projects 'Conservation of wetlands in Ķemeri National Park', LIFE2002NAT/LV/8496 and 'Implementation of management plan for the Lake Engure Nature Park', LIFE00/NAT/LV/7134.

On October 18, Andis Liepa, a representative of Nature Protection Board and coordinator of implemented Ķemeri LIFE project guided participants of the trip in both grazing areas, established within the LIFE project – floodplain grasslands of Lielupe and Slampe rivers. Both cattle and ‘Konik’ horses are grazing in these areas. Barbed wires are not used for grazing enclosures here to avoid injuring of pasturing and wild animals; electrical wires along all the whole length of fences are used instead.

Grazing area in Lielupe floodplain is not easy reachable for visitors, a road, leading through the grazing grounds, is suitable only for off-road vehicles. Grazing areas are established in 2006. About 30 cattle and 30 horses are grazing in the area of 280 ha there. Lielupe floodplain grasslands are flooded during the spring floods, therefore the herd is moved forward higher sites before the floods, and a special embankment is created, where animals can take refuge during the floods. Lielupe floodplain grasslands are strongly grazed, the places with short grass are suitable for resting and feeding of migrating geese. Participants of the trip were lucky to see some geese (a Barnacle Goose and two Greylag Geese). Cattle and horses periodically graze about 70% of the fenced area. It was possible to see, how animals clear from reeds and shrubs more and more enclosed areas in Lielupe floodplain.

As a contrary, Slampe floodplain is easily reachable for visitors, tourism infrastructure is established there: a bird-watching tower and an embankment, from where the grazing area, established within the Ķemeri LIFE project and re-meandered Slampe river can be seen. Grazing area is established in 2005, currently about 60 horses and 30 cattle are grazing here in the area of 120 ha. Grasslands are strongly grazed also here, the herd uses also the forest edge to feed, to escape from insects, hot sun and to rub against trees. Fencing is not necessary at the forest edge, because animals never enter the forest deeper then a certain distance from the open area.

On October 19 the project team visited grazing areas in Lake Engure Nature park (LENP), guided by Roberts Šiliņš, leader of the Board of LENP, staff member of implemented Engure LIFE project. At the beginning, participants of the trip visited grazing area in the eastern coast of the lake, near the Engure Ornithological Research Centre of Institute of Biology, University of Latvia. Animals are grazing here from 2001.  Currently 8 ‘Konik’ horses and 16 cattle of different breeds, suitable for living outdoors all the year, graze in the area of 25 ha (about 50 ha, including reed-beds in lake shore). It is planned to widen grazing enclosure in northern direction. To avoid inbreeding and conflicts between animals, young calves are removed and sold every autumn, thus obtaining necessary financial resources for building and maintenance of fences. Animals can freely reach the shore of the lake. Grasslands are strongly grazed, the landscape sharply differs from that, what it was before the Engure LIFE project – the shore of the lake is open now. Waders breed in grazed grasslands of the lake shore – Northern Lapwings, Meadow Pipits and Black-tailed Godwits. The bird watching tower, built in 1999 on the shore of the lake, is not safe for visitors anymore, and it is planned to finish building of a new tower this autumn.

In the afternoon the western shore of the lake was visited, where grazing grounds near Ķūļciems were established in 2003, as well as a tower at Mazsaliņa. There are 38 cattle, including some cattle of the breed ‘Latvian Blue’ and crossbreeds of this breed in the herd of the western shore. Grazing grounds cover about 50 ha, animals can freely reach reed-beds in the lake shore. A new grazing enclosure is established nearby, where a part of animals were moved soon after the trip.

Ilze Priedniece