Sefton Coast Column: Cattle returning to conservation pasture for the winter
CHEWING THE CUD: Up to 20 Belton Galloways will spend the winter months on the Ainsdale side of the site
By John Dempsey
It’s time to welcome old friends to the dunes as conservation grazing cattle return to Ainsdale and Birkdale for another winter to chew their cud.
These animals perform a valuable service, eating wild vegetation from fall and trample areas, churning and exposing sand in a process known in cow circles as “poaching”.
The grazing and poaching duties of livestock help improve dune habitat so that it is more attractive to key flora and fauna species in the spring. By reducing biomass and clearing areas, they control brush, which means the soil is more suitable for dune specialties, including spring annuals and orchids. They could not thrive if the vegetation got too tall or the brush pockets were too extensive.
Ground-nesting birds like skylarks and meadow pipits will also benefit from improved ground conditions next year. And butterflies, including the spectacular Dark Green Fritillary, benefit indirectly, as plants such as Heath Dog Violet thrive in grazed areas. The dog violet is the feeder plant of the fritillary caterpillar, everything is linked you know!
This autumn the ever-popular Belted Galloways are back on the dunes of Ainsdale Local Nature Reserve, south of Shore Road, while Shorthorns will graze in the Birkdale section of the Local Nature Reserve later in the year. season.
The distinctive black and white “Belties” are small and docile, but more than tough enough to handle the dunes during the winter months. Up to 20 of them will spend the winter months on the Ainsdale side of the site.
Meanwhile, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust will provide its slightly larger herd of Shorthorns, which will graze on the Birkdale side of the reserve and will not arrive until a little later.
Shorthorns are also known as “Durhams” as they were originally bred in the North East of England in the late 18th century.
Joining the cows should be a herd of Herdwick sheep, tough creatures that spend the summer months on the Lake District hills around Wasdale Head and head south for the winter in Sefton.
Although cattle and sheep are popular and interesting animals, they have a job to do, so it is important that they are left alone. Please walk your dogs without disturbing livestock or other wildlife and their habitats.
Keep your pets on a leash or under effective control and ensure that all gates are securely closed behind you, as you would anywhere cattle or sheep graze. Please follow and obey all guidelines and signage on site.
The conservation grazing program will continue until early spring when cattle return to summer grazing areas and sheep return to the Lake District. While they are with us, please treat our winter grazers with respect – they are a key factor in the Coast’s winter work program.
If you would like to find out more about the management of the local nature reserve or grazing animals, or report any incidents, please contact the Green Sefton team by email or telephone on 0151 934 2961.
For more information, visit the website here
John works for Green Sefton, the service of Sefton Council which brings together the Coast & Countryside, Parks & Greenspaces, Flooding & Coastal Erosion, Risk Management and Grounds Maintenance teams for a joint approach to vital conservation management, development and monitoring. beautiful town of Sefton. coastline, parks and green spaces.
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