A HERD of shaggy four-legged conservation heroes is helping an upland farm in the Lake District to become a haven for some of the country’s most endangered butterflies.
Luing cattle have been recruited to graze the land at High House Farm, Winster, to create an ideal habitat for Cumbria’s high brown fritillary butterflies.
The high brown fritillary depends for its life cycle on woodlands and grassland where there is sufficient light to promote growth of violets – the preferred food of the insect’s larva.
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Under a Natural England Higher Level Stewardship scheme, the Luing herd is grazing the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), where their trampling helps to keep bracken in check.
This allows violet plants to grow and the butterflies to thrive – its numbers dropped by more than 90 per since the 1970s.
Farm manager Alec Smith has found that the Luings’ Highland heritage makes them suited to the fells and is delighted that the herd is helping improve the wildlife habitats.
“We have worked hard over the last ten years to establish and grow a herd at High House Farm,” said Alec.
“We needed a breed that could manage our rough land with minimal handling, but still deliver a high commercial yield.”
Simon Humphries, Natural England’s area manager, said: “Luing cattle are proving to be an excellent native breed to use where conservation grazing is needed and well-suited to the uplands of Cumbria.
“This is a great example of how enhancing the environment also makes good commercial sense and shows these two factors can go hand in hand.”
To help showcase the environmental and commercial benefits of the breed, the Luing Cattle Society is breaking with nearly four decades of tradition by holding its annual open day in England.
The event is on August 1, at High House Farm and will provide an opportunity for farmers, existing and potential Luing breeders and food, farming and forestry industries to find out more about the breed.
To register visit http://winsterluings.tumblr.com/openday2014