Scotland’s wildflower-rich meadows and pastures have declined dramatically in recent decades.

These precious wildflower meadows are amongst the most threatened wildlife habitats in the country. It is thought that only around 10,000 hectares remain – that’s a tiny 0.14% of Scotland’s total land area.

Our unique ‘Flying Flock’ is encouraging wildflowers to flourish again..

For over 15 years, the Scottish Wildlife Trust has successfully been using our very own sheep and cattle – known affectionately as the “Flying Flock” – to help meadows recover. This is a project that we pioneered and remains the only one of its kind in Scotland.

In many places, invasive species such as creeping thistle can stop more vulnerable wildflowers from growing. Our Flying Flock just love chomping through those unwelcome plants and we can see the difference it’s making because rarer species are returning. But it costs money to keep our wonderful animals and improve our wildflower meadows. We urgently need your support. By donating today you can help ensure that our Flying Flock continues to protect some of Scotland’s most threatened habitats.

The Flying Flock is held in high regard by many other conservation organisations and high affection by our members.

Support the Flying Flock today

As the first flock of its kind in Scotland, the Trust’s Flying Flock has blazed a trail and encouraged environmental charities, landowners and government agencies to use this type of grazing.

Please help us to keep the momentum going in the important battle to protect Scotland’s threatened meadows by donating today.

Laura, our Conservation Shepherd, tells the story…

As the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s shepherd, I am fortunate to be able to see the difference that conservation grazing can make with my own eyes. Colourful wildflowers like lesser butterfly orchids and yellow-rattle are springing back to life wherever we go. When I wrote to members and supporters to tell them about our Flying Flock back in 2014, the support was wonderful. The generous response enabled our hungry conservation grazing animals to continue saving wildflower meadows throughout the country. I hope you will help them carry on with this vital work.

Often, many of our most precious wildlife habitats are simply neglected or converted to other land use such as house building. With so few wildflower meadows remaining, it is vital that we protect and restore them where we can.

Pioneering conservation grazing work helps our wildflower meadows recover

Our Flying Flock of hardy Chevease sheep and Shetland cattle move between meadows and help wildlife wherever they go. It’s not just on Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves, you may see them munching away on community-owned meadows and they have even been used on former opencast coal mines. With fresh pasture on offer, the animals don’t need much coaxing to board the trailer to take them on their journey to their next destination.

In 2015, our dedicated volunteers spent over 700 hours removing unwanted vegetation within an extension to our Bawsinch and Duddingston Loch Wildlife Reserve, known locally as Murder Acre (after a riot in the 17th Century). Situated at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, our Flying Flock sheep and Shetland cattle are enjoying their first summer here, having already spent the past two winters helping to restore the former meadow.

In just the second year of annual ‘rotation grazing’ at our Murder Acre meadow, we are already beginning to see many types of plants recover. With the continuation of our conservation grazing project we can expect to see an increased display of many more wildflowers like devil’s-bit scabious, common spotted orchid and cuckoo flower in the years ahead. You can keep up to date with my work with our sheep and cows on the Flying Flock’s Facebook page.

Traditional breeds are suitable for the Scottish climate

Our sheep and cattle are not just good for our wildlife, they’re great value and make your support go so much further!
We now have an entire flock of self-shedding Chevease sheep so we have no shearing costs at all. Our lambing in May is later than most breeders, but this allows us to make the most of the seasons, meaning we need to buy in less feed.
The flock are selectively bred to be easy to manage. Attributes such as good fertility, ease of lambing and natural worm resistance help to keep our overheads to a minimum.

This year, 90% of the flock lambed in 14 days, a fantastic outcome which reduced our costs significantly.
The rare cattle were originally bred to endure the harsh winters of Shetland and happily take on the worst weather that Scotland’s mainland can provide. They have a wonderfully laid back temperament and, being relatively small, are easier to manage than many other breeds.

A benefit for bees and butterflies

Of course, other species also benefit from our Flying Flock. More wildflowers make the meadows better for butterflies, grasshoppers, bees and other pollinators.

Please help us protect Scotland’s threatened wildflower meadows by donating today.

Thank you for taking the time to find out about this important work.

The Flying Flock
© Laura MacGregor

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