After nearly 50 years, cattle are again grazing the meadows at Stocker’s Lake, Rickmansworth.
Thanks to Friends of Stocker’s Lake (FoSL), six Dexters were introduced to Stockers Lake Nature Reserve on Sunday, June 9.
While the cattle are there to enjoy the reserve, they’ll also play a vital role in managing and improving grassland for the benefit of wildflowers, insects, small mammals and birds through conservation grazing.
The main way grazing animals benefit wildflowers is by removing biomass and nutrients, as this helps less competitive species (such as the more delicate wildflowers) to get a foothold by reducing the more dominant and vigorous species.
Cows will also nibble scrubby bushes which helps to keep them under control.
Cattle are better grazers for conservation as they are non-selective, unlike sheep which tend to prefer nice flowers to other vegetation.
Sheep and horses also crop vegetation close to the ground resulting in a flat, uniform sward.
Cattle, however, pull up tufts of vegetation.
This means they are not cropping close to the ground and results in the tussocky appearance of grazed meadows.
Dexters are particularly good grazers for land crossed by people.
FoSL have wanted to reintroduce cattle to the Stocker’s Lake meadows ever since it was founded in 1990.
It is now a registered charity and is a group of nearly 700 local people who love Stocker’s Lake and want to protect and improve it as a local nature reserve.
FoSL has tried for many years to emulate the effect of cows by cutting and collecting the grass every year at a cost of £1,000 – but cattle do it far better.
In 2013 it was decided to start the lengthy process of introducing cattle.
Their introduction is the culmination of the passion of the founder of FoSL, Ian Watson whose drive and enthusiasm has resulted in this important environmental improvement to Stockers Lake Nature Reserve.
The support of Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, in particular Lonneke Klein-Aarts, was invaluable in seeing this project through to its conclusion.