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Herding skills - in both cows and sheep

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Simon

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« on: October 22, 2009, 15:51 PM »
Hi,

An issue has cropped up elsewhere in the Forum that I felt deserved a topic of its own.

Thanks to Andy's (andyj) observations about cattle grazing on wilderness areas:

Quote
"The owner of the campsite in the Alt Garrotxa grazes cows in his own forest and had interesting observations and anecdotes about the process; he said that only cows several generations down the line could be left alone as otherwise they would poison themselves by eating everything!"

This is tradional "shepharding" at its best.

It is the same situation as herdwick sheep on the lake district fells and cows grazing marshland on fens with ditch systems in Shropshire or Somerset. Cattle or other stock not used to local hazards sometimes drown or get poisoned, simply beacuse they dont know what a ditch is or does to a cow that cant swim! If they survive they learn not to do it again! and pass on that fear to the herd or offspring.

Also, through successive generations they know that they can only wonder so far, and therefore stick to an area making herding up easier and they can be left out on the fells etc for long periods. They simply dont stray from a certain part of the fell or fen. This again is passed down through the generations. It is like having an invisible fence. I must have taken so many years to get this entrenched in a herd!

Loss of these stock traits were a big worry when foot and mouth hit the UK and many herds of cattle and sheep in remote areas might have been destroyed. I would imagine that if these herds and flocks were destroyed then more modern practie would have come in with fencing, plant eradication and ditch culverting. Not so good for the wildlife.

Does anyone know of more examples like this in Iberia?

Cheers

Simon

Offline andyj

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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2009, 16:28 PM »
hi simon,
For the life of me, at the time of writing my orginal reply, i couldn't remember the term for the sheep that stay in one area of the fell. So I did what any self respecting person did and googled some random words and low and behold here is an explanation.

"they have been bred for hundreds of years to be "territorial". It’s what farmers call "heafed" to the fell. This means they can be safely left on unfenced terrain and will not wander off their traditional patch. Ewes teach this behaviour to their lambs. "

Andy


Simon

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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2009, 19:04 PM »
Hi Andy,

Thanks for the hint about 'heafed' sheep. Looking through Google I find references to the practise in the Clee Hills, very much in South Shropshire not the north of the county at all!

If you view the entry your eye will no doubt be drawn, as mine was, to the reference to A E Houseman's poem, 'A Shropshire Lad' A poem easily trounced by Clunton and Clunbury. But I'd always thought that this poem contains one of my favourite stanzas:

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.


But I now find it's from G K Chesterton - nothing do with Shropshire at all - although in my youth I made sterling efforts to 'preserve' that particular tradtional aspect of English country life!  :)

Regs

Simon

Offline andyj

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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2009, 21:03 PM »
excellent poem. thanks for that Simon. It should be on a t-shirt!

You will probably find heafeding is much more widespread than you think. It is just that unless you are into farming you dont really hear about it.
I once met a farmer near Stafford who lost more than a couple of calves in ditches because they were too young to "learn" how dangerous they were. Some fortunately didnt die and the farmer winched them out.

Fascinating stuff.

Andy