I think Wayne and Waynetta, the belted Galloway cattle, have stronger survival instincts than any of the twelve Shetlands of the herd.
The Galloways are eating as much as possible of everything edible in the Riverside/Hoo brook Pastures at the moment, whilst the Shetlands are laid back and more concerned about palatability of their grazing. This video shows the two Galloways consistently browsing the woody scrub, whilst the Shetlands stand around or lie down chewing the cud. The whole herd will steadily lose weight until next year’s growing season produces new lush green grasses in four months time. I’ve a feeling the Galloways will do better than the Shetlands this winter. In fact, I would like to exchange two Shetland cattle for another two Galloways.
I’m pushing the cattle to graze the Riverside/Hoo Brook pastures as hard as is practical this winter, and probably next year too, to help control the thistles, nettles, brambles and willow scrub growing here. What the cattle don’t or won’t eat, I want knocked down and trampled as much as possible. At the end of next week, I’ll probably move the herd into the Swamp and, for a short time at least, the cattle will think they’ve been sent to heaven: plenty of grass and water in the Swamp.
With the cattle grazing the Swamp, volunteers will cut the remaining thick willow scrub branches down to the stumps in the Riverside/Hoo Brook Pastures, so that new thin willow stems will shoot and provide winter rough fodder for the cattle again next winter.
There is always the concern of overgrazing, but the far northern Wilden Marsh pastures have not had much continuity of grazing and they are infested with thistle, brambles, ragwort, and nettles. The Riverside Pasture was flailed as well as grazed last year. This year I’ve opted for grazing and cutting the thistle by hand. I’m not looking to completely clear these plants, but to progressively reduce their coverage so that we have more useful pastures. One thing I don’t need to worry about is causing desertification through overgrazing – both pastures are wet, to varying degrees, all year round. So I’m hoping that stressing the pastures with longer periods of intensive grazing will result in less weeds and more grass over time.
When the growing season gets underway, it doesn’t take long for the vegetation to grow tall enough to hide the cattle. I’ve seen Himalayan balsam grow to heights in excess of 2.5 metres here.