SPRING HAS DEFINITELY ARRIVED, even though it may not have quite felt like it recently, because we in the grazing team have been busy trying keeping track of the arrival of new calves and kids! At the time of writing we have had 9 kids and 20 calves, we’re still expecting a few more kids and around another 40 calves, so we still have a busy time ahead. Most of the goats and cattle need no help during labour, but we check them regularly so know which ones are close to giving birth and monitor them in detail to ensure they deliver their young with no problems.
The cattle and goats are also due to start heading out onto their summer sites very soon. These will predominantly be heathland sites and rangers very often advertise the arrival of the cattle in advance so the public know when they will be there and where they will be. The cattle are used to help reduce the dominance of purple more grass. This deciduous grass can dominate the heathers and other delicate heathland flora which suppresses its establishment and growth. When the cattle eat this grass down it increases the opportunity for these more delicate, slower growing plants to become established. The goats stay in electrified pens and are used to target woody, scrub species such as silver birch. Not only do they take the leaves from the plant, but they also strip the bark too which further stresses the plant and hopefully kills it.
The other side of my job involves looking after Barossa and Poors Allotment as a ranger. This is a large 600ha heathland site near Camberley. Around Easter, rangers with heathland sites are on edge as this tends to be a period of arson activity. Sadly this was the case on Barossa this year when a large section of the heath was set alight. This obviously sets back the development of the habitat, but will have killed any animals that were unable to escape the flames. Most importantly however, it puts human life at risk. If you are on a site where you suspect there is fire then call the fire service straight away.
This is also a good time to remind anyone using a heathland site that ground nesting birds are well underway now and all site users should stick to the paths. This includes dogs which should be kept on a lead or under close control (on a path and in sight at all times).
James Herd (Assistant Ranger, Grazing Team)