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  • Taking a dip?
    Pony takes a drink in the pond
    ​An Exmoor pony takes a drink from Middle pond

​The aim of the grazing expansion project is to return grazing livestock to as much of Burnham Beeches as possible – potentially as much as 95%.

The Burnham Beeches team has been working closely with Buckinghamshire County Council and Transport for Bucks, Natural England and with the Burnham Beeches Consultation Group to arrive at solutions to find ways of achieving the aim.

At the public consultation in 2009, 71% of people wanted to see as much of the Beeches grazed as possible and the project is also supported by the City of London's Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee and South Bucks District Council.

This page should contain all the information you will need to understand what the project involves and why it is so important.

The livestock

We use traditional breeds which are better suited to grazing rough vegetation like that in the Beeches. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust has information about the conservation of rare native breeds of farm animals. We have British White cattle and Exmoor ponies and have also used Berkshire pigs to graze and forage under the trees.

As livestock do not always graze the same places, a diverse structure is produced – this is great for wildlife. Livestock can graze in areas where machinery can’t get to such as near dead wood or uneven ground.

Grazing is an essential part of maintaining the value of the habitat here.​

How many and when?

​As the livestock do not get any supplementary feed whilst they are on the reserve they are not out all year round. Depending on whether they are cows or ponies, they can be out for anything between six and eight months, starting around May. When we use pigs they go out on site in the traditional 'pannage' season which is September to November; during this time there are lots of acorns and beech nuts for them to eat.

At present we have seven British White cattle and three Exmoor ponies. Whilst grazing expansion will mean more livestock are needed, the increase will not be dramatic as they will be used at a similar grazing density to what we have at present (i.e. similar numbers of livestock per acre).

Invisible fences

If you have livestock, you need to have something that stops them from straying off your land or into areas where they shouldn’t be.  Traditionally this has meant a post and rail or post and wire fence or a stock proof hedge. These methods are fine but they can restrict access so carefully positioned gates are needed. Fences may also intrude visually on the ‘natural’ landscape. The 'invisible fence' system used in the trials uses buried cables with collars on the animals so there is no need for gates, in fact access is greatly improved, and as the cable is buried there is nothing to spoil the view.

The system works by transmitting a radio signal along the buried cable this is picked up by collars worn by the livestock; if an animal approaches the cable the collar emits an audible warning, if they get too close they receive a small electric shock. The shock is similar to that given by a traditional electric fence and after one or two shocks they learn to keep away and stay in the paddock.​

The trials so far

​The invisible fence system was first tested in the UK by the City of London at Epping Forest and, since 2012, we have conducted trials here at Burnham Beeches. The tests have included 'virtual paddocks' which include public roads, allowing the livestock to graze both sides. The trials have been a success with the fence working well, the livestock remaining within the grazed areas at all times. All tests have shown very clear grazing lines no closer than 2m from the wire.

The invisible fence system has enabled us to increase the total area grazed to 160ha - equivalent to 73% of the reserve. 

Where will the livestock be?

The order in which each paddock is used and the length of stay for the livestock will be dictated by the quality of grazing available. Signs will go up in each paddock prior to livestock being released and will stay in place whilst they are in each area. We will also post regular updates on our news page.

The cattle are monitored very regularly for the first two days and then they are checked twice per day throughout the period that they are in the paddock.

For more information about the grazing expansion take a look at our frequently asked questions below or contact the Burnham Beeches Office on 01753 647 358.

Frequently asked questions and other documents

​Have you got a burning question that you haven’t seen an answer to yet? 

Have a look at our Frequently Asked Questions document (280kb) which should answer any questions you have about the grazing expansion project.

Here are some other documents which you may find useful:
Grazing fact sheet (317KB)
Restoring the pastoral landscape (819KB)