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5 Sept 2023

Cattle join team at Ben Lawers for conservation project

Written by Paul Williams
New temporary residents of Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve inspect their new surroundings
A herd of 28 pedigree cattle has joined the National Trust for Scotland team at Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve as part of a trial project to improve the habitats and biodiversity of this important landscape.

The group of Luing cattle has temporarily set up home at Ben Lawers, one of eight National Nature Reserves cared for by our charity. The cattle, owned by local farmers Peter and Maj McDiarmid, have established themselves on the lower slopes of Beinn Ghlas, and will be closely monitored throughout the trial. GPS technology in the animal’s collars is helping the team manage where they graze at the reserve.

Helen Cole, National Trust for Scotland Property Manager at Ben Lawers, said: ‘We are thrilled to welcome the cattle to Ben Lawers and are excited at the prospect of seeing the effect their grazing has on designated habitats on this highly significant nature reserve.

‘The cattle churn up the soil as they move around the reserve, which encourages seed dispersal and natural regeneration of the different plant species that call this special place home.’

“By using the GPS collars, we can target where the cattle graze in the hope this will not only benefit open habitats but also promote natural regeneration of mountain woodland and scrub, which we have been restoring here for over 30 years.”
Helen Cole
Property Manager at Ben Lawers NNR

The project aligns with the National Trust for Scotland’s vision to provide access to nature, beauty and heritage for everyone, outlined in our strategy that was launched in 2022. Conservation grazing supports our goals to improve the condition of our estate and enable nature to flourish.

Helen continued: ‘We are incredibly grateful that this project has received over £113k in funding from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, managed by NatureScot, to enable us to carry out this work. This funding, alongside additional support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the continued generosity of our members and supporters, enables us to continue to care for, protect and share Scotland’s natural heritage, now and for future generations to enjoy.’

NatureScot funding has enabled the Trust to leverage further support from our supporters including People’s Postcode Lottery, whose players have now raised a total of over £2.5m for the National Trust for Scotland since 2014, to support our work to enrich and protect Scotland’s natural heritage.

NatureScot’s Head of Biodiversity and Geodiversity, Katherine Leys said: ‘It’s fantastic to see the Nature Restoration Fund having a positive impact across Scotland. This project is an excellent example of how local landowners and farmers can work together to tackle biodiversity loss by using nature-based solutions, such as conservation grazing. We look forward to the results of the trial, which we are confident will bring real benefits for the habitats and landscape at Ben Lawers.’

The Ben Lawers conservation grazing project follows a similar approach used successfully at Threave Estate in Castle Douglas, near Dumfries. Part of the Threave Landscape Restoration Project, the team there used the same pioneering GPS technology to monitor and remotely track cattle activity (via smartphones) to reduce the chance of over-grazing.

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