Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) manage nature reserves across the whole of Gloucestershire and grazing livestock are an integral part of the management of the reserves. In the Forest of Dean, we decided to buy our own livestock, making it easier for us to get grazing where we need it and when we want it.
All our livestock are native rare breeds which makes them ideal to live amongst the nature on our reserves. First came Hebridean sheep, then Exmoor ponies, then Highland cattle and finally some Herdwick sheep. The livestock are not for breeding or making money - their only job is to eat lots, stay healthy and grow old.
Owning livestock is a commitment and we must be sure that they are well looked after. Part of this is to ensure that they are looked at on a regular basis. As with many things we do at the GWT we enlisted the help of some wonderful volunteers to help us…
The animals are checked daily by a mixture of GWT staff and volunteers. Any adult can become a stock checking volunteer if they are able to safely get around the reserves to wherever the animals are located. We train all our volunteers in how to check livestock and what to do if they find something wrong.
As we have such a variety in the type of livestock and because they all graze different sites all over the West of Gloucestershire there is lots to check on and we can be moving groups of animals quite frequently. Again, this is made possible by the help of the stock checking volunteers, who also help when rounding up the animals and with routine health care and moving them from site to site.
We use WhatsApp groups to report what we find, post pictures of the livestock ‘at work’ and for chatting about anything to do with the animals. We also have a 24-hour emergency answer machine service just in case something goes wrong. (The answer service alerts nominated members of GWT staff 24 hours a day)
But enough from me, here are what two of our volunteers think.