Meet Hester, Klara and Kasper…

26 September 2023

Our beautiful Shetland cows living and working in Prime Four.

Our cattle are pure bred pedigree Shetlands. The Shetland, known natively in the Scots language as Shetland kye,is a small, hardy breed of cattle from the Shetland Islands and is classified as at risk by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in Britain. They have an ancient lineage thought to date back to the cattle the Vikings brought to the Shetlands Islands in the period 700-1100 AD. The majority of Shetlands are black and white but red and white is now firmly established and even whole colours are reappearing. The Shetland has delicately shaped inward and slightly upward curving horns, appropriately Viking style.

Hester and Klara, who are half-sisters, were bought in November last year from the Scottish Wildlife Trust Fleecefaulds Herd to carry out the important function of conservation grazing on the pastures of the North Park at Prime Four. Kasper was born to Hester on the 30th of May this year.

The Shetland has many great qualities that make it suitable for conservation grazing as they eat a wide range of grasses including rushes, coarse herbs, and thistle tops. They also browse a wide variety of shrubs, including young heather. Their hooves break up bracken and rushes, so they are essential for managing the spread of invasive and undesirable plant species. Conservation grazing is a natural and sustainable alternative to mechanical mowing and the selective nature of the grazing opens up the meadows, providing a diverse range of structural habitat for insects, reptiles, and amphibians. The conservation grazing function is part of a wider habitat and biodiversity programme we have in place at Prime Four.

In the winter they have a long hairy coat which starts growing in August and by May they become sleek and shiny with their summer coat. All calves are born with a woolly coat whatever time of the year they are born. Check out how shiny and sleek Hester and Klara are in comparison to Kasper and his thick woolly coat.

The Shetland make excellent mothers and tend to need little to no intervention during birthing or the early days of motherhood. They just work it out and get it right! Shetlands tend to have fewer health issues than bigger, commercial breeds which, when managing vegetation is the priority. Low maintenance livestock is a big plus point.

A virtual fence linked to the collars worn by the cattle allows the Park Management team to manage the location of the cattle without fences.

Look out for more updates on our “Kye” over the coming months.

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