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Cattle at the reserve

Rare Breed English White Cattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cattle grazing 2016-17 

for traditional Suffolk meadowland enhancement at Simpson’s Fromus Reserve

The Trust’s objective at Simpson’s Fromus Reserve is to enhance the floral richness of these ancient meadows. Since February 2008 the reserve has been entered in organic environmental stewardship.  The first rule of management, of course, is no artificial fertilizers nor herbicides.  The second is to keep the sward-height low, to allow sunlight and rain to penetrate to the broadleaf flowering plants that we wish to encourage.  The specified targets are 5-15 cm height in April-May, unless the field is conserved for hay or silage, and the same at the end of the growing season in November.

 

 

 

 

 

In past years, the whole Reserve has been closed in spring for hay or silage, which has been harvested after 30 June, and the aftermath growth reduced by grazing. From 2013 through 2015, local farmers have taken the grass harvest and brought in their cattle  for the autumn months. But things change and, in 2016, we could find no local cattle-owners who wanted the grass-harvest or grazing, nor a market for our organic hay. As a trial, we decided to change to an all-grazing system and brought in the trust’s small herd of six British White cows and heifers, previously housed at Sinfield Nature Conservation Trust’s White House Farm, Hasketon. The Soil Association rules (for organic status) allow unlimited grazing by this rare breed.

 

 

 

 

 

Looked after by local farmer Philip Baskett, and registered with a local veterinarian, these beautiful  animals have done a good job in bringing down the tall grass. The reserve was already divided into three grazing units, around which the cattle have been rotated.

 

 

 

 

 

There have been other consequences.  Over the wetter winter months,  gateways have become muddy passages, and hoof-prints have indented the soil. While challenging, in places, for the human walker, the effect will provide diversity in the habitat for small plants and invertebrate animals, and may bring to life  long dormant seeds of ancient meadow flora. Cattle dung will attract coprophagous creatures, and increase habitat diversity for plants and fungi.

Guardians and other visitors will find these cattle docile and friendly.  There are three grazing compartments, and you can check beforehand where they will be. If you ignore them, they will ignore you.  If you want a nosey cuddle, please bring carrots or apples, and you’ll have friends for life!  You can always push them gently out of the way if they are too intrusive and, once they appreciate you have no more eatables, they will lose interest

 

 

 

 

 

 

We shall assess the results carefully during the summer 2017 and apply our observations to conservation planning for next year. Meanwhile, two cows and three heifers have been served by artificial insemination, so we hope for autumn calves.

Cow – the moo-vie:

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Cattle at the reserve”

  1. Jillian Macready says:

    lovely moo-vie but not long enough! looking forward to becoming a guardian, my payment went off this week. JIllian

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