Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Introducing the Livestock to the Whole of Burwell Fen

The end of January saw a new start for the livestock on Burwell Fen. On a blowy Friday lunch time the Ranger team opened the gates to the south side of Burwell Fen to allow the ponies and cattle full access. We have been building to this for a few years, building handling units, constructing fencing and moving the herds over from Adventurer's Fen, so it was very rewarding for us to finally see the animals being able to roam over the entire of Burwell Fen. We called the cattle over to the gate to show them where the new paths through were and to encourage them to explore the new area. They are all keen for a bucket of food so we managed to get most of the herd interested enough to come through the new gateway. We were particularly pleased with Apple, one of the youngest cows, who was very excited to see the new grazing, and completely ignored the food piles in favour of a big juicy patch of rush that she went head first into!

They heard the call and came plodding.

Hannah leading the keenest through first

As the horses move around more than the cows, we felt they would find their way through on their own. They seemed a bit tentative for the first few days, with only the more adventurous younger ponies taking the plunge. Once they were all through, however, they haven't looked back. It has certainly made the checks more interesting, finding new routes through the fen to where the animals have decided to graze that day.

First taste of new grass

Apple's mad dash to fresh rush

The animals seem to be enjoying their new range, having not ventured back into the north side since we let them through. It has also been interesting to watch some of the behaviours that access the new widespread area has brought out in the livestock. The bulls are re-asserting their hierarchy, deciding which patch of land they want as their patch, and there has been some posturing and shouting at each other to decide whose in charge. Some of the horses are spending time away from the main herd, the young "bachelor" herd, who are more inquisitive. The main herd, with the young foals, seem to be moving too slow for them, so they go out on their own to investigate the furthest reaches before coming back to the herd.

Ewan and one of the girls venturing forth

The rest of the herd exploring more slowly

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