Archives for posts with tag: conservation

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It has been a busy time lately for the Black Down herd of conservation grazing cattle. They have been moving around our sites completing our programme of summer grazing and will soon be heading out onto their winter quarters. Four of our girls have returned from the bull, fingers crossed for a full set of beefy buns in ovens. Also two of our steers have reached the age where they go for beef.

We run a breeding herd, heifers (young females) are kept for breeding so that we can build up numbers and select for good characteristics. Steers (the castrated males) are kept for 3 years and then go for beef. We sell the beef in a local box scheme, the profits of which help support the running of the property and the herd, as well as giving people a taste of some of the finest tasting, highest welfare, most sustainably produced beef you could ever wish to put on your plate.

Someone from the Black Down team visits every one of our cattle every single day of the year. Come rain, hail, snow or (occasionally) sunshine we look after them from birth till death. The work they do for us is absolutely vital for our management and stewardship of the countryside in our care. Without them the habitats and landscapes we look after around Haslemere would be very much the poorer, for both wildlife and people. Needless to say it is difficult not to get enotionally involved. Especially on the day you take an animal you have known well to the abbatoir. Yesterday was such a day, and I don’t mind saying it wasn’t easy.

Today is a new day though. I couldn’t be more proud of the animals we raise here, and know that they live just about the most contented and rich life it is possible for a cow to have. This is reflected in the beef we produce and sell.

So, on a stricly first come first served basis (limited supply available) we are currently offering for sale 5kg boxes of mixed cuts of our rare breed Belted Galloway beef which will have been traditionally butchered and hung. The boxes cost £50 and will be available for collection from Swan Barn Farm on 6th November between 4 and 7pm. We have a list of customers in the office, to get on the list you need to ring 01428 652359 and speak directly to one of the team. I have to warn you though, supermarket beef will never be good enough again.

 

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I love working in the countryside, come rain or shine there is always the potential for something interesting to appear around the next corner. You are also never short of something new to learn about. Regular readers will remember that for the last few years we have been undertaking a reintroduction scheme for sand lizards on Black Down.

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We have been working with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust releasing hatchling lizards (seen above) to an area of specially managed heathland in the hope that this fascinating and rare species would manage to reestablish itself on the hill.

Natural England estimate that they have been lost from over 80% of their former range, they are a classic heathland species and we really wanted to do our best to provide a safe refuge for them.

So for the last three years each year we have released handfulls of pretty tiny lizards onto the heath wondering if we would ever see them again.

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Trouble is the little perishers are pretty much impossible to find until they get to maturity at about 3 years of age. This is when the males develop their fantastic vibrant green colouration. So… this year is the first time we have had chance to see whether the reintroduction has worked…

The winters have been pretty harsh, and various predators were bound to have had quite a few of them, but had any survived?

Well, yesterday, whilst working on the hill Matt discovered the answer, tucked in amongst the heather was a little green wildlife wow, a male sand lizard decked out in his mating finery.

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It is great news for our largest and rarest lizard that it is establishing itself in a new home, and great news too for Black Down and all the people who worked so hard to make it happen.

There is plenty of new life to see at Swan Barn Farm at the moment. This years lambs are gambling about and causing mischief in the orchard and in the fields behind the countryside team office is my favourite new addition of the year.

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It’s our new calf “Mirriam”, seen here standing next to her mother. She is one of our Belted Galloway cattle. She is at the farm for the summer with the other cows to help us manage the grassland and encourage wildlife. She is very calm and patient and as long as you don’t try to get too close her mum is happy to show her off to visitors.

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The NT owned herd are vital for our management of a number of sites around Haslemere. They munch through the scrub on our heathlands and encourage wild flowers in our grasslands. We couldn’t do the job without them.

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Somehow when they aren’t around the landscape here just doesn’t make sense. They are a crucial part of the jigsaw of our management of the countryside… And are cute as anything too!

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