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Journal of a Livestock Looker – September

September 15, 2011

The Chase has reopened to walkers, although the contractors are still busy on the paths and the car park. You may have noticed that since late August our four footed friends, the Shetland cattle, have been out and about and enjoying their new freedom. No longer are they confined to a meadow surrounded by fences – they are roaming freely and really enjoying their much more varied diet. On being released they set off for the heathland area discovering the delights of the scrub there and settling in happily to their new environment.

Content cows in their new home at The Chase

During our training we also learned about the Chase project in general and some interesting information on the conservation grazing in which our cattle are specialists. We discovered that grazing by large herbivores, such as our friends in the Chase, helps to create and maintain biodiversity, consequently making it much more user friendly for the beetles and bugs. Also by browsing the lower branches of the trees as they make their way through the woods they will be keeping the glades open for butterflies and ground nesting birds. You may spot them in one of their favourite haunts down by the stream, and marvel at how clever they are at reaching up to the lower branches of the trees to curl their long tongues around the leaves to chomp on those, or indeed you may see them just standing contentedly among the trees quietly chewing the cud.

As if this were not enough to justify their existence as conservation grazers, by munching up unwanted scrub in the heathland area they will be helping the sand lizard population in the Chase.

So, our ladies are not just pretty faces – they are very useful members of the National Trust. They have been given names to make it easier for us to identify them in our daily reports – the names are not as romantic as the traditional names for cows, such as Buttercup and Daisy, but much more practical. They are – wait for it! – Blackie (the blackest one), Whitie (the whitest one), Stripy (the ….. one), Spotty (the …… one) and Socks (which, as you might guess if you have been following me here, has white feet).

By the time you read this, The Chase will be open to the public (although not the Car Park) and you will be able to make the acquaintance of these new inhabitants. The team of Livestock Lookers will be out in the woods each day checking up on them to make sure all is well. Blackie, Whitie, Stripy, Spotty and Socks are making a valuable contribution to the environment and we hope they are going to be very happy in their new abode.

Author: Mary Harcourt – Volunteer Livestock Looker.

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