OUR bovine friends have been giving endangered native plants a helping hoof.
A herd of Beef Shorthorn cattle, from Stirley Farm, Castle Hill, has been put out to pasture at Stocksmoor Common Nature Reserve.
The cows will help to reduce the amount of coarse vegetation and invading scrub habitat, enabling less competitive species including the finer grasses, herbs and small flowering plants to establish.
It is hoped this will encourage a greater diversity of insects, birds and small mammals.
A State of Nature report released last month found there had been a 60% decline in UK species over the last 50 years.
The once derelict Stirley Farm, which has been transformed into a community eco-project, hopes to expand its herd of cows.
The farm, run by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT), has now achieved one of its early ambitions – to put its herd out to graze on a nearby nature reserve as part of a conservation grazing plan.
YWT hopes Stocksmoor Common Nature Reserve, a grassland managed by the trust near Shelley, will be the first of many nature reserves to be managed using stock from the farm.
Stirley Farm Manager, Brian Lavelle, said: “It is a fantastic feeling to achieve one of our original goals for the farm in a relatively short-time.
“Every day that passes another part of the farm is restored and we are able to see the wildlife traditionally associated with a sensitively farmed landscape creep back in, with the arrival of swallows and housemartins back to the farm for the first time in years.”
YWT chief executive, Rob Stoneman, added: “The publication of the State of Nature report made for sober reading, with headlines including a 60% decline in UK species over the last 50 years; in particular this decline was recognised amongst farmland species, with 62 flowering plant species on the national Red List.
“It is statistics like this that spur us on, projects like Stirley Community Farm provide us with the chance to halt this decline and prevent local extinctions.
“Once our meadows were multi-coloured, flower-rich habitats and it is this that we hope to get back to on the Pennine fringe.”