Why Are There Grazing Animals?
As you’re out and about around the Parks, you may come across grazing animals. The Parks Trust works with a farming partner and a number of our fields are used to graze our animals. At the height of summer, the Trust has around 350 to 500 head of cattle and 400 sheep out in our fields. This figure reduces dramatically in the winter, due to many of the grazing fields being found in the river Ouse and Ouzel flood plains. The animals are consequently taken back to the farm and over wintered in barn holdings.
Our cattle and the breeds we own are chosen partly for their general calmness. They can however be inquisitive and may come towards you. If you have a dog, they may come closer. This inquisitiveness and the need to explore situations is usually at its height in the Spring as the cattle are released into the fields from their over-winter barns.
Farm animals help us to maintain wildlife habitats. It’s also more cost effective and sustainable than the use of machines. Grazing with sheep and cattle helps to create better conditions for a great variety of wild flowers which in turn attract many pollinating insects such as butterflies, bees and hoverflies as well as larger animals and birds.
Grazing helps to reveal and protect archaeological features that show how the land has been managed in the past.
It reminds us that the living countryside is a source of our food and employment as well as for our enjoyment. The Trust also feel it is important to contribute to the required food chain by using our farm land effectively (but not necessarily at high intensity levels) rather than importing that food from far away countries.
Top Tips For Walking Safely Where Animals Are Grazing
Always keep your dog under close control and always on a lead where livestock is present.
Do not allow your dog to scare or disturb farm animals or wildlife. Don’t allow your dog to bark at or chase livestock. Keep small children and buggies close to you.
Cows are nosey and may come to investigate, especially if you have a dog with you. Don’t panic or run if cattle follow you!
On entering a grazed field and if you feel unsure of the cattle, stand a few metres inside from the gate and see how the cattle respond to your presence. If they start to come towards your position, you can walk calmly to the gate and when safely on the other side review the situation.
When approaching grazing animals, talk calmly out loud or give a whistle so that they’re aware of your presence. You’re much less likely to startle them in this way. Avoid sudden movements or excited shouting. Once you reach them, walk quietly past or around them and praise your dog for ignoring them.
If you are threatened by cattle release your dog so you can both get to safety separately. Always keep your eyes peeled for potential dangers. If necessary, find an alternative route especially if your dog is elderly or slow.
Riding Through Grazing Cattle & Sheep
There are some important guidelines for equestrians passing through any livestock:
Walk quietly through the field do not ride through any field containing livestock with a dog.
If stock are following you closely, turn your horse to face them, they are more likely to retreat. Shout or move towards them if necessary. You may need to do this repeatedly while crossing the field; keep calm all the time.
Try not to show to your horse that you are nervous, which may translate to your horse, which in turn may itself start to panic. Never rule out calmly getting of your horse and leading it to a field exit.
Make sure stock know you are there. Stop until they become aware of you. If riding in a group keep the horses reasonably close together.
Never trot or canter through fields of sheep unless they are distant enough to be undisturbed by you – keep checking and walk if you are disturbing them.
Sheep are most likely to avoid horses and riders or run from intruders in their field.
Be very careful at gates to ensure that sheep, especially lambs, do not dash through.
Avoid any action that would cause the sheep to run as lambs may become separated from their mothers.