How Galloway beef cattle help protect wildlife

Conservation farmer Patrick Laurie is inviting people onto his hill farm to discover how Galloway cattle can be used to help threatened bird species.

It’s one of three farm visits taking place as part of the Wigtown Book Festival.

Patrick will be inviting the public to see the work he is doing to restore the balance between agriculture and nature.

As part of the Wigtown Book Festival’s This Farming Life theme the conservation farmer (and author of The Black Grouse) will be showing people round Slongaber Farm, Glenkiln, to see how he is reconciling the need to make a profit with the protection of fragile bird species.

These include black grouse, grey partridge, curlews and lapwings.

One of the secrets is to make the most of the traditional Galloway cattle whose grazing creates the right conditions for many bird species to thrive.

Patrick said: ‘Galloways are brilliant, they just eat their way through huge amounts of rough grass and tussocks that other breeds just couldn’t survive on.

‘They have the hardiness not just to survive but to go on all four cylinders on really difficult land – they are designed for the place.

‘When you have them on land that hasn’t been grazed for a long time then you start to see how things change, with birds returning and breeding in places they couldn’t live before.

‘It’s really important to be doing this because the decline in some bird species has been so dramatic – the number of curlews is down by 60% since 1994, which is huge.

‘In these days, when consumers are increasingly interested in the origin of their food, it’s a great story for them that they are eating beef from an animal that has helped to improve the environment.’

Patrick farms in several places across Dumfries and Galloway and is based at Culkeist Farm near Dalbeattie.

Alongside running a herd of pedigree riggit galloway cattle, Patrick also acts as a consultant to other hill farmers across the UK, helping them find ways to build profitable and environmentally sustainable businesses at a time when the sector is facing huge uncertainty and planning for the future is difficult.

The three Wigtown Book Festival Farm visit events are –

Kitchen Coos & Ewes, September 30, 9.30am: Get up close with the Beltex Sheep and feed the Highland Cows on the “Insta Coo” tour at High Airyolland Farm.

Away with The Belties, October 3, 10.30am: The Old Place of Mochrum. Belted Galloway cattle are a Galloway icon, and nowhere has greater associations with them than the Old Place of Mochrum, whose former owner Miss Flora Stuart worked tirelessly to save the breed. This farm visit will bring you close up with these beautiful beasts and their history, in the company of today’s herd manager Helen Ryman.

A Galloway Hill Farm, October 4, 1.30pm: Slongaber Farm, Join the inspiring conservationist, farmer and author Patrick Laurie on the moor to hear about his work on a traditional upland farm.

Wigtown Book Festival runs from 27 September to 6 October in Scotland’s National Book Town. For full details go to