New Forest ponies will be grazing Castle Bottom between April and November (depending on weather and conditions) 2013. No Highland Cattle will be grazing the site in 2013
Highland Cattle and New Forest ponies graze the Nature Reserve between March and November to help preserve heathland habitats for a variety of rare plants and animals.
Grazing is an important part of heathland conservation for a number of reasons, playing an effective role in maintaining the heath by helping to control more aggressive species which would otherwise dominate these areas. Grazing helps to produce a variety of structure in the vegetation, creating patches of longer tussocks, which is ideal habitat for invertebrates and small mammals, and bare ground, which is favoured by certain ground-nesting birds. Trampling by cattle also help control scrub, and the dung they leave provides further habitat for invertebrates, which in turn benefits the birds and reptiles which feed upon them.
Highland cattle are the ideal choice for conservation grazing. Bred to cope with tough conditions and terrain, they are hardy grazers, thriving on a wide range of vegetation unpalatable to most cattle. They can live out in all seasons and weather and have a long breeding life.
Although all the animals on the Reserve have a mostly docile temperament, as with all animals they may become unpredictable if they feel threatened. Please do not approach them, especially with dogs or children. Remember that every situation is different; use your experience to consider how to behave around the cattle. If you have any concerns, please contact us on 01252 870425.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind when visiting areas with grazing cattle or ponies
- Do not feed them, as this will encourage them to approach other people.
- Cattle used for conservation are generally a lot more docile than dairy breeds, and will tend to be naturally scared of you, especially if you have a dog. Try not to startle them as they may panic. If they have not seen you, you can let them know you are there by talking to them gently.
- If possible, take a detour around the cattle, giving them plenty of space.
- If a detour is not possible, only proceed when they have seen you, and stay within their sight. They may get up; give them a chance to move out of the way by approaching them slowly, then move through the group quickly and calmly.
If you feel threatened by the cattle
- Do not panic and run away - they are probably being inquisitive and will run to keep up with you. If you stop they will keep a safe distance from you.
- Raise your voice (but do not shout) and lift your arms to make yourself look bigger. Make eye contact with the cattle to keep them at a distance. Do not use a stick to scare or hit them.
- Stay calm and walk briskly away, keeping an eye on the cattle, and on your footing.
If you have a dog
- Always keep your dog under control when visiting an area with livestock
- Avoid walking amongst cattle wherever possible
- If the cattle do chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it. Cattle see dogs as a much greater threat than humans, and a dog free from its lead should be able to escape.
Volunteer Cattle Lookers
Why not join our team of Volunteer Cattle Lookers, who play an important role in checking that the catttle on site are happy and healthy?
You will be given appropriate on-site training in what to look for in healthy cattle, and gain confidence in negotiating a herd.
If you would like to help, please contact the Site Rangers.