The Beasts are Back!
The 2012 calving season is now finished for our Highland cattle at Loch Katrine. This year there are 42 new additions to the fold.
18 of this years calves have been sired by our Whitebred Shorthorn bulls - these 'first cross' calves are very popular with upland commercial farmers in Scotland as they exhibit the improved growth rates of animals with hybrid vigour, whilst retaining the winter hardiness of the traditional purebred Highland and Whitebred Shorthorn cattle.
The remaining 24 are purebred Highland calves - a mixture of males and females. Some of these will remain at Loch Katrine to join the breeding fold, others will be sold in local markets or go to other conservation grazing projects in Cowal and Trossachs Forest District or further afield in Scotland's National Forest Estate.
Why do we manage forest habitats with cattle?
Cattle are helping us to enhance forest habitats for a range of wildlife. Birds such as Black Grouse, Woodcock, Pied Fly-Catcher and Snipe benefit from low-density cattle grazing around woodland fringes. It can also be beneficial to rare species of butterfly such as the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary which thrives in lightly-grazed woodland. Owls and other raptors benefit from the greater opportunity to catch prey in open areas.
Cattle dung is important for insects which are a food-source for many birds and mammals such as shrews, hedgehogs, foxes and bats. Cattle dung recycles nutrients, acting as a natural fertiliser. Grazing some sites will promote suitable conditions for trees where there is currently vegetation such as Bracken. Other sites are grazed with greater intensity in order to maintain open spaces within our woodlands.
Why Highland cattle?
- Compared to other breeds of cattle they are smaller and relatively light on the ground, which means rather than damaging sensitive sites they trample the ground lightly. They help to regenerate forests too, by creating seedbeds with their hooves.
- Their hardiness is essential for grazing exposed sites.
- Highland Cattle have a rough outer coat which is excellent at shredding rain water and keeping their fleece like undercoat warm and dry making them an ideal choice for dealing with the Scottish climate.
- The ability they have at foraging for food throughout the year.
- They have strong necks and long horns which are excellent for clearing pathways in dense vegetation and so help create open glades in the forest – a more natural patchwork of habitats for a range of wildlife.
Did you know?
One Highland cow produces about 4 tons of dung per year which nurtures an annual insect population a quarter of the cow’s own bodyweight!
Encountering cattle in the forest
If you are visiting the forest and come across cattle, please leave them be and they’ll do the same with you. Cattle can sometimes take a dislike to dogs.
Where possible, choose a route that avoids taking your dog into fields with cattle. If you do need to go into such a field, keep as far as possible from the animals and keep your dog on a short lead or under close control.