Highland cattle on Cathole cliffs

While wandering the clifftops between East Soar and Bolberry Down, you may have found yourself accompanied by a herd of shaggy cows. These furry friends play an important part in how we take care of the coastal land at Southdown Farm.

Owned by one of our tenant farmers, the cows spend their winters grazing on the cliffs. As they amble along eating, they often bash through the dense bramble and graze the tussocky grasslands, reducing the sward height.

All of this contributes to the conservation of the land, as they have helped to improve the condition of the area which is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI). The harmony between farming and natural conservation here has allowed native plants and insects to flourish.

Why Highland cows?

There are many ways that the Highland cattle make an ideal choice for grazing this area of land. As a breed, Highland cattle are known for being particularly hardy and happy to graze areas with poor forage, meaning they are often suitable for areas where other cattle or grazing animals may struggle to thrive.

In this particular area of land, there are steep unfenced cliff edges which the area best suited for calm, docile animals. They don’t mind walkers and dogs coming along the coast path. The fact that they won’t be easily spooked is particularly important when they’re near the cliff edges.

The land was also considered poor grazing for many animals because of the scrub and dense sward.

The docile cattle are happy to watch you pass by
A highland cow resting in the grass
The docile cattle are happy to watch you pass by

The way they graze has helped clear the brambles and reduce the sward height, and they generally graze the area evenly rather than favouring one spot. Though they may not look it, Highland cattle are also quite light-footed compared to their cattle cousins, so the land doesn't tend to get poached as much during their ambles.

Because of this, they have already proven successful in improving the condition of the land along Cathole cliffs.

A note for walkers:
Though the Highland cattle are generally docile, we still ask that dogs to be kept under close control when walking through areas with livestock, for the safety of both yourself, your pet and the animals who live here.