How Home Farm helps our conservation work

Red Devon, Kingston Lacy, Dorset

The Red Ruby Devons at Home Farm are the oldest pedigree herd in the world. But their value is more than their bloodline; together with our flock of Portland sheep they play a critical role in preserving habitat in the wider estate at Kingston Lacy.

History

Home Farm was established in 1885 by Walter Ralph Bankes, an enthusiastic outdoorsman, huntsman and gardener. His son Ralph, the last member of the Bankes family to own Kingston Lacy, shared his father’s passion for the farm, especially the herd of Devons.

When Ralph bequeathed the Kingston Lacy estate to the National Trust in 1982, he stipulated that the herd should be retained. We consider it part of our 'living collection' and believe it is just as important as the fine art and architecture that make Kingston Lacy so famous.

Ralph particularly liked the impressive horns the Devons have, and today we leave the horns on the females to preserve this tradition.

Home Farm is still a working farm, but its animals now play a different role.

Red Ruby Devons

Red Ruby Devons are a tough working breed, but also gentle and docile. Known for their russet-red colour and thick coat they are often nicknamed the ‘Red Rubies’.

At Kingston Lacy the herd split their time between Home Farm during the winter and the parklands and vast estate during spring and summer. 

The cows are no longer milked but are a key part of our conservation work on the estate. As a lightweight breed the cattle are ideal for conservation grazing, keeping in check invasive species such as gorse and heather on environmentally sensitive sites such as Badbury Rings and Holt Heath.

If you are walking your dog out on the estate, please be a responsible dog owner, keep your dog under close control and pick up your dog's poo – it can be fatal to livestock.   

Portland sheep

It's not just the Devons that are used for conservation grazing. In 2018 the rare but ancient breed of Portland sheep were introduced to Kingston Lacy. You're most likely to see them in the parkland or paddocks around Pamphill – look out for the Portland lambs in the spring, which are distinctively dark in colour (and utterly adorable to watch).

A newborn portland lamb with its mother in the parkland at Kingston Lacy
A newborn Portland lamb with its mother in the parkland at Kingston Lacy in Dorset
A newborn portland lamb with its mother in the parkland at Kingston Lacy
Video

Kingston Lacy's Red Ruby Devon herd joins the digital age

We use GPS technology to track the Red Ruby Devon herd as they graze Holt Heath in the spring and summer months. This natural way of managing the heathland is helping to improve biodiversity on this SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).