Cattle return to Glen Affric

 Highland herds ladies in Glen Affric

Ladies from the Commission's Lochaber based herd get to work in Glen Affric


Forestry Commission Scotland is bringing cattle back to Glen Affric as part of its conservation grazing programme.

The Commission has been running its own conservation cattle and sheep in Lochaber and in the Trossachs for around 7 years, to deliver very specific objectives in these highly valued conservation areas.

Giles Brockman, for the Commissions team in Inverness, Ross and Skye forest district, said;

“One of our big conservation objectives is to improve the landscape but one of the main factors that works against us is the uncontrolled browsing of habitats.

“This is why we manage deer closely in order to limit the amount of damage that can be done. But there is still a place for controlled grazing – and that’s where the cattle come in.”

Efforts to improve the habitat quality in the main pine wood area in Glen Affric are achieving good results for the Commission’s team in the area.  The enclosures in South Affric have also achieved some strong natural regeneration of birch but the main enclosure within Glean nan Ciche, has filled up with competing vegetation which has slowed the natural regeneration of woodland.

Giles explained;

“Thick ground vegetation can crowd out and greatly slow down woodland regeneration, so the trick is getting that fine balance between too much browsing and not enough browsing.

“We can very closely control the impact of cattle on the area and ensure that their browsing and trampling are used as essential tools in conservation habitat management.”

The Commission’s Lochaber team is sending 20 of their ‘Highland ladies’ to Glen Affric for the summer in the hope that they will break up the moss and felling site debris and open the ground up for tree seedlings to establish.

Giles added;

“Outside the fences, browsing levels are still too high but we are slowly starting to see tree regeneration taking hold in places, which indicates that our management is heading in the right direction. But control and experimentation is the key to this long term project. 

“For example, the montane willow colonies on the upper crags in Glean nan Ciche are now recognised as one of the best sites in Scotland and  we can only continue to protect and enhance them  through deer management. 

“However, on the other hand, we also intend to remove fences from one fully developed enclosure, let the deer back in and see how the area reacts. 

“It’s only through this sort of active experimentation and testing different management theories that we will be able to find the best solution for maintaining habitats and ensuring a healthy level of biodiversity.

“It’s good to know that Glen Affric – perhaps one of Scotland’s most fascinating and historic locations is at the forefront of this work.”

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Tha FCS pàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba; a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìon, a' cumail smachd air, agus a' leudachadh choilltean gus buannachdan a choileanadh dha coimhearsnachdan, dhan eaconamaidh agus ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh sa ghnàth-shìde.
  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6507 / 07785 527590 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.