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How Home Farm helps our conservation work at Kingston Lacy

Print, linocut, Home Farm, Kingston Lacy, Dorset by John Liddell (b.London 1924).
Linocut print of Home farm, Kingston Lacy, Dorset by John Liddell (b.London 1924). | © National Trust Images/Simon Harris

Home Farm was established in 1885. Ralph Bankes, the last member of the Bankes family to own Kingston Lacy, was passionate about the farm’s Red Ruby Devon cattle; when he bequeathed the estate to the National Trust in 1982, he stipulated that the herd should be retained. Ralph particularly liked the breed’s impressive horns, and today we leave the horns on the females to preserve this tradition.

A Victorian Farm

It’s the oldest pedigree herd in the world, and we consider it part of our 'living collection' – just as important as the fine art and architecture that make Kingston Lacy so famous. Home Farm is still a working farm, but the animals now play a different role.

Red Devon cattle grazing in a field at Kingston Lacy
Red Devon cattle at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust Images / Mark Wratten

Red Ruby cattle

The Red Devon cows 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’.

Kingston Lacy’s herd splits its time between Home Farm during the winter and the parklands and vast estate during spring and summer.

The cows are a key part of the 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.

A close-up of a Portland tup with spiralling horns with a ewe in the background at Kingston Lacey
Portland sheep at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust Images / Mark Wratten

Portland sheep

It's not just the Red Devon cattle 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).

These animals are an important part of how we manage the estate today. Portlands are small and hardy, the perfect breed for conservation grazing as they can thrive on rough vegetation and sparse grazing – so are able to graze areas which are unsuitable for the Red Devons.

Portland sheep help Kingston Lacy manage habitats such as wood pasture and wildflower-rich hay meadows: by carefully controlling grazing factors such as time of year, duration and number of animals, the sheep help these habitats support a wider variety of plants and wildlife.

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