Conservation Grazing

This is the type of of scene that is becoming increasingly common on the nature reserve — ancient breeds of cattle or sheep grazing beside the water.

Enter The Hebrideans

The story began late in 2001 when five black ewes arrived at the reserve. They are Hebrideans, an ancient breed which are beginning to become popular for conservation grazing. They are small, tough and lamb very easily. Senior Warden, Martyn Aspinall said that the flock size would gradually be built up and he hoped that they would help to control the coarse grasses along the edge of the reservoir. The sheep are pictured here getting used to their new surroundings in the area immediately around the visitor centre.

And Above ….. Dexters

Soon after the Hebridean sheep, came other conservation grazers arrived – four very small black cows and their calves. These are Dexters and are particularly suitable for grazing the grassy areas along the sides of the reservoir.

The cattle are being raised organically which will ensure that the cow pats they produce are particularly attractive to insects. The insects will, of course, be particularly attractive to birds.

Martyn says that the long-term aim is to create the right sort of habitat to establish Yellow Wagtails as a breeding species on the reserve. The Dexters will “puddle” the edge of the water and help to keep the grass short during the winter – ideal for grazing wildfowl such as Wigeon.

Initially the cattle “did the business” in the area around the Anglian Water Visitor Centre and by March 2002 their presence was already making a difference: a Green Woodpecker was seen turning over the cow pats in front of the visitor centre and the areas they grazed attracted Fieldfares, Redwings and Stonechats. When the animals were moved to a new area just to the north, it was very noticeable that the Stonechats moved with them.