Driffield NewsNEWS

Climate challenges and cow cuddling at Dumble Farm

Highland cattle, with their long horns and flowing woolly coats, are famous around the world for their distinctive look and gentle nature.

But did you also know that these majestic animals are the unsung heroes of nature conservation?

As part of its work to support conservation and biodiversity, Dumble Farm at Arram has invested in a fold of 30 Highland Cattle to graze the wetlands to keep unwanted vegetation at bay and to create the correct conditions for wading birds. Thanks to the gentle nature and good temperament of the cows, the team at Dumble Farm is also providing the chance for people to get to know their cattle by offering a range of experiences from Highland cow trekking to cow cuddling.

Reporter Debbie Sutton visited Dumble Farm to meet farmers Fi Wilson and her husband Will and brother James McCune, as well as some of the animals, to find out more about their conservation work and the animal experiences they offer.

After selling their dairy herd last year, due to issues with sustaining it after several years of the grasslands flooding, Fi, Will and James followed their passion for traditional farming and conservation and applied for a higher tier countryside stewardship to enhance the environment and create biodiversity at the farm which has been in the family since 1972.

Dumble Farm – Spring 2023

Formerly known as Beck End Farm, Dumble Farm was named after the local term for club-rush, which were called dumbles.

The huge conservation project being undertaken at Dumble Farm is helping to create new habitats to help protect local wildlife species.

A huge acreage is being dedicated to wet grasslands providing breeding and feeding grounds for wading bird species.

Dumble Farm is priority habitat for breeding lapwing and to create the right conditions for the lapwing, the family invested in Highland cattle to manage the grassland by grazing.

The cattle create a mosaic of different heights of swards, ideal for the breeding birds, formed by the feeding action of the cows.

Restoration work on an existing pond, plus the creation of three more ponds, will support a great number of different species and coppicing willows along the edge of the pond provides a more varied habitat for wildlife.

Mixed native hedgerows and trees are being planted to provide food and shelter for wildlife and to produce oxygen and store carbon.

The creation of willow scrub will support a range of wildlife by providing food, shelter and nest sites and legume and herb-rich swards will provide the perfect site to attract pollinators.

Fi told the Wolds Weekly that the Highland cattle were the ideal choice to fit in with their conservation project.

She said: “The wetlands will be grazed by the Highland cattle. They are a good hardy animal and not too heavy and create the right sort of habitat for the breeding waders.

“They are a slow growing animal and don’t need the high-quality grass that dairy cattle need, allowing less competitive plants and wildflowers to survive.

“We currently have 31 cattle, including four calves born this year and a couple more due in the summer.
“We are aiming to increase the fold to 65 in the next three years.”

Dumble Farm – Spring 2023

As part of the stewardship scheme, educational access to enable children to engage with farming and the environment and learn about food production is a key element.

In preparation for this, the team at Dumble Farm thought it would be good to have a cow on a halter to enable the children to get hands-on experience.

As they were training some of the cattle, they discovered how much they enjoyed wandering around on the lead and the idea of Highland trekking was born.

Visitors to Dumble Farm will have the opportunity to groom the cattle and after instruction and guidance from the Dumble Farm team, they will accompany the Highlands on a walk while they learn about the breed and the role they play on the farm.

As well as Highland cow trekking, Dumble Farm also offers a cow cuddling experience where visitors can meet, cuddle and groom Highland cows and some of the retired dairy herd, before feeding the alpacas and feeding and cuddling with the two goats.

“Our original plan was to offer the cow cuddling because we had kept some of the dairy herd that we couldn’t part with because they were like our pets,” continued Fi.

“The cows are great and from a wellbeing point of view, people get such a lot from the close contact with them.

“When we got the Highlands and began our training with them as part of the educational access aspect of the stewardship, we realised how much they enjoyed the grooming and having lots of attention and they really took to walking around the farm and looking for new places to graze.

“So, after talking to friends and family, the idea of the Highland trekking came, and it just grew from there really.

“People love the cattle and really enjoy grooming them and taking them out for the walks.

“We began offering the experiences last November and all through the winter months, in all weathers, people have come and just enjoyed the opportunity to be hands-on with the cows.

“We talk to the visitors about our conservation projects at the farm and how the cattle are part of that and the response we have had has been very positive.

Dumble Farm – Spring 2023

“We have had people offering to come back and help us to plant hedges.

“We have had people from all over the country coming for the animal experiences and we even had a message from a lady in Hawaii who was enquiring about how she could sponsor a cow!

“The interest has been phenomenal, and I think it is because we offer something different.

“We are not a petting farm; we are still a working farm, and our animal experiences have to be booked in advance but there are not many places where you can go to groom a cow.

“I think people enjoy it so much because they can see how much the cattle enjoy being groomed.

“They love having their necks and under their chins brushed and will put their heads on one side and stick their tongues out; they just love it.

“If one is getting more attention than the others, they get jealous and want to get in on the action.

“They are adorable, and each have very different characters.”

Once the ground conditions improve, Dumble Farm will also be offering Highland cow and wildlife safaris onboard the Dumble bus.

The bus will take visitors around the farm, while the Dumble guide points out local wildlife and talks about the Highland cattle and their role in the conservation work.

The farm is also working towards accepting visits from schools to learn about the conservation work and next year, it is hoped a campsite will be introduced to give people the opportunity to stay longer and explore the surrounding countryside.

Fi said as farmers they have always had a keen interest in conservation, and it seemed the natural progression for the farm to follow.

She said: “As farmers we have always had a keen interest in wildlife and conservation work, and we often used to visit nature reserves ourselves and the farm just lent itself to pursuing that route.

“We can’t beat the flooding and so we have to embrace it and we are trying to put back what was there centuries ago.

“We have already seen lots of wildlife returning and regularly see curlew, snipe, oystercatchers and lapwings. We have lots of swans and greylag geese at the moment.

“The wet grasslands are a good carbon store so from a climate change point of view, it is going to have a positive impact.

“There’s still lots to do but we have embraced the change and look forward to seeing the benefits continue for years to come.”

All of the animal experiences at Dumble Farm must be booked in advance, to find out more, visit www.dumblefarm.com

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please allow ads on our site Ads help pay for our website and content. Switch off your ad-blocker and enjoy.