To graze or not to graze? Historical management of hay meadows in the Carpathian Mountains

Prepared by Monika Janišová

Distribution of the seven Carpathian dairy farming systems applied between 1850 and 1950 based on a synthesis of literature data. The yellow background represents areas with regular spring grazing of fields and hay meadows. The blue background indicates the destinations of long-distance transhumance in the lowland regions. (Map from the original article).

We are trying to preserve the biodiversity of hay meadows, but we take care of them differently than our ancestors did. Farmers in the past employed various management practices on hay meadows, including grazing, manuring and corralling, while today, our approaches frequently include only the mowing. Let’s compare the current management practices with the management of hay meadows in the past, using the example of Carpathian hay meadows between 1850 and 1950.

This Behind the paper post refers to the article Grazing hay meadows: History, distribution and ecological context by Janišová et al., published in Applied Vegetation Science (

How did short-term spring and autumn grazing on hay meadows take place? Could the absence of grazing on meadows result in changes in species composition and the structure of hay meadows? How do traditional ways of hay meadow fertilization, such as spreading farmyard manure and corralling, occur, and how could these practices influence the productivity and biodiversity of the grassland habitats?

Did you know that many of the extremely species-rich grasslands in the Carpathian Mountains are managed through a combination of mowing and grazing? Watch a short film summarizing the findings from our five-year-long research on the Carpathian grasslands:

To learn more about the historical management of hay meadows, please read the recently published article in Applied Vegetation Science. You can access the article at the following link: