Pastures new for Scottish conservation cattle at heart of Trossachs rewilding project

A prize-winning herd of cows which play an important part in a Scottish conservation scheme is moving to a new winter home as part of plans to reforest a popular glen in the Trossachs.

Grazing by the pedigree Luing cattle is essential to the management of rare woodland habitats across the 4,000-hectare Glen Finglas Estate, not far from Aberfoyle and Callander.

The estate has been run by Woodland Trust Scotland for the past 25 years, during which time extensive tree-planting and peatland restoration has been carried out in a bid to return the area to a healthy natural condition.

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It is home to myriad wildlife species, including black grouse, beavers, golden eagles, pine marten, otters and red squirrels.

The herd of Luing cattle perform an important role in conservation work by Woodland Trust Scotland at Glen Finglas Estate, in the Trossachs. Picture: Niall Benvie

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Now the charity has acquired a further 77 hectares of land at Portnellan – between Loch Venachar and the A821 – which will be used to provide winter pastures for the herd.

This will free up areas previously used for this purpose, allowing a further 60 hectares of native forest to be planted on the estate.

The new site was secured in an off-market deal with owner Moray Estates, which gave the charity first refusal on a 99-year lease.

It currently has little tree cover, but around 20 hectares of the poorer pasture will be planted with new broadleaf woodland.

The higher-quality land will provide grazing and silage for the herd, a breed created in 1947 by crossing Beef Shorthorn bulls with Highland heifers.

Site manager Hamish Thomson said: “Our cattle are used to manage the upland wood pasture and valuable open habitats in the upper glens through the summer months.

“In the winter we need to bring them to lower ground.

“Currently the fields along the east side of the reservoir are used prior to bringing them down to the home fields for calving in February and March. 

“Having the additional good grazing land at Portnellan will allow us to expand and connect the existing woodland areas around Glen Finglas reservoir.”

A spokesperson for Moray Estates said: “We very much support what Woodland Trust Scotland has achieved at Glen Finglas over the last 25 years and are delighted we have been able to reach an agreement on the future of Portnellan.”

Funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery helped secure the extension.

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