Growing Geese Numbers needs Management Rethink

What many people don't realise when they watch the geese on Islay or elsewhere is that these lovely birds can cause quite some damage to farmlands. Shortly after the geese arrive on Islay in the autumn they spread over the island to feed from the grass which is sometimes grazed almost to the root. When the geese leave the island in April parts of the grasslands on Islay aren't suitable for cattle or sheep to graze on because it needs to grow back first before the animals can use it. This is of course bad news for the farmers and that's one of the reasons why they are financially compensated by the government in so called goose management schemes. For more information on the management scheme visit the Scottish National Heritage website. Where one country in Europe offers a payment to support geese on their farmer's lands, in other countries such as the Netherlands geese are being shot by their thousands for causing damage to farmlands, but these are a different species. The geese on Islay and other parts of Scotland have a habit to travel around and graze in areas not being covered by these schemes, that's why the farmers believe it is time for a change in the schemes:

The Ileach: The National Farmers Union (NFU Scotland) has called for goose management policy in Scotland to be revived to reflect the significant levels of damage being done to agricultural and crofting land not currently covered by the existing goose management schemes. The call was made as the Union staged a national membership workshop in Stirling today (Tuesday, 23 March) to discuss further the Scottish Government's 2010 Review of the National Goose Management Policy. Continue reading....

The Union believes that the seven Local Goose Management Schemes (LGMS) currently operating in Scotland have allowed land in these areas to be managed in a way that recognises the conservation value attached to the high concentrations of geese that are found grazing these parts. As such, the local schemes and their associated budgets must be preserved. However, consultation with members has highlighted that large populations of geese on farmland outside the existing schemes are now doing significant damage and the Union has called for options and resources to be found to assist with management in such areas.

The Union's Head of Rural Policy, Jonnie Hall said: 'The existing local schemes have enabled our farmers and crofters to go about the job of growing crops and rearing livestock whilst also managing their land in the interests of the species of geese that are deemed most valuable in conservation terms. We are firmly of the opinion that there continues to be a need to retain those local schemes in their existing locations and with their existing budget maintained. 'However, we are increasingly concerned by the significant agricultural damage being carried out by geese grazing around Scotland in places as far apart as mainland Orkney, Caithness, Isle of Mull and parts of Dumfries and Galloway. These areas are outwith existing LGM schemes and affected farmers who have no direct access to funding or management measures. We are therefore equally adamant that this Scottish Government review of goose management must put measures and funding in place to deal with this growing problem.

'Our preferred option to assist those producers in non-scheme areas troubled by geese is the development of an appropriate non-competitive 'grassland management for geese' option under the Land Managers' Options scheme within the Scotland Rural Development Programme. Creating such an option should be a priority for the Scottish Government. 'This twin-track approach, using the existing LGMSs and new LMOs, has the potential to effectively tackle significant goose management issues for all affected farmers and crofters no matter the location in Scotland.'

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