The herd now grazing Wilden Marsh consists of two Belted Galloway (brother and sister, Wayne and Waynetta) and twelve Shetland cattle.
Belted Galloway : When fully grown, rare breed Belted Gallaway cows weigh between 1000 and 1500 pounds and can live for twenty years. A bull will weigh around 1750 and 2000 pounds. Belties are a docile breed, probably of Celtic origin (probably why I like them), that have a double thickness coat to protect them from extremely low temperatures and high winds. Their shedable curly winter coat is so efficient that they only need a thin fat layer around the waist. The breed is very fertile, easy calvers, can survive well on dry and wet ground and a restricted diet of low quality rough grazing where other breeds would fail. If all this is not enough, Belted Galloways are disease resistant and less susceptible to foot problems than other breeds. Galloway cattle definitely show stronger survival instincts than the Shetlands. The Galloways will eat winter willow scrub and rush when the Shetland avoid it in favour of grass. The Belties are usually first to eat young brambles, winter willow, reeds, rush, nettles and thistles. Belted Galloways will react aggressively toward dogs.
Shetland Cattle: Are also small to medium size rare breed multi-purpose cattle that thrive on poor grazing and in low temperatures, and are sometimes known as the smallholder’s cow. Shetlands have many of the Galloways benefits, but they prefer to eat as much of the available grass before tackling less palatable rush and winter willow.
I think the right grazing combination to suit the summer and winter requirements of Wilden Marsh, is a herd of ten Shetland and four Galloway cattle.
The whole herd is easily controlled, readily responding to my calls and willing follow me from one end of the marsh to the other. They will react to strangers and other herds with strident bellowing and mooing. However, with the exception of Billy Bull when he was first introduced on the marsh, the herd has been very accepting and gentle with me, and I do tend to get in amongst them. I’ve had a few playful nudges whilst filming. There was an occasion whilst filming over a gate, I felt a nudge, then another, followed by a more purposeful push. I turned around and it was Billy Bull doing the nudging. The hairs on the back of my neck rose because it’s not easy to tell, on the spur of the moment, just how much testosterone is surging through a bull’s body: he might have been thinking of mounting me, which wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience.