Do wintering pink-footed geese cause problems for farmers?

BBC Wildlife writer Mike Toms answers your wild question.

Pink-footed geese grazing on farmlands

Pink-footed geese grazing on farmlands © David Tipling / Lonely Planet Images / Getty

Britain – particularly Norfolk – hosts more than 80 per cent of the world population of pink-footed geese during the winter months. Numbers have increased dramatically over recent years, largely due to reduced hunting pressure, but also to the availability of agricultural crops.

As with other geese species, the past few decades have seen pinkfoots switch from feeding in wetlands to grazing on farmlands, with a particular fondness for sugar beet tops. While the grazing of cereals and pasture does bring the birds into conflict with farmers, utilising sugar beet is seen as positive.

The crop is harvested from September to the end of December, and it is the cut tops and other remains that the geese eat. If the beet fields are left unploughed through the winter, the pinkfoots can ‘clear up’ any leftovers and are less likely to move onto more precious crops – so both geese and farmers benefit.


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