6 September 2002

Keen demand over rare breed revival

THE first person to join a new scheme putting traditional breeds back on National Trust farms in the Lake District is already taking orders for livestock.

Mark Cornthwaite, of Ashness Farm in Borrowdale, said: "Weve had three phone calls from buyers wanting to take our Belted Galloway store cattle.

"And a breeder who supplied us with some of our foundation stock says he has a waiting list of new customers looking for breeding females."

Mr Cornthwaite is the first farmer in the Lake District to embark upon this National Trust project. The cattle are intended to fulfil several roles. They will benefit the environment and produce quality beef on a lower input system than continental-bred suckler cows.

Ashness Farms herd boasts 15 Belted Galloway cows. They have already been successful when used intentionally to "poach" the ground in a belt of woodland on the farm. The woodland floor was being overtaken by grasses which were preventing other flora and vegetation from becoming established.

"The poaching was deliberate and hopefully will have sufficiently broken up the ground to allow other plant species to thrive," said Mr Cornthwaite.

He claims the Galloway venture has halved the usual input costs associated with running continental suckler cows. Local farmers have already commented on how well the cattle look despite being offered only rough grazing.

"And you dont need fences that reach to the skies. These cattle have been extremely docile and easy to handle."

Strict record keeping will provide the National Trust with important data to undertake a formal evaluation of the costs and viability of running native breeds on tenanted farms. The next stage of the scheme could see National Trust tenants on lowland units encouraged to take the native-bred store cattle for finishing.

Rare breed…Mark Cornthwaite is taking part in the new scheme.