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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
Buffalo grazing wildlife habitat
Water Buffalo - (picture: Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust)
The buffalo survive on scrub, gorse, birch and willow
A herd of water buffalo are being used as an alternative to native cattle to help develop a Powys wildlife habitat.

Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust is using the three hardy beasts to control wetland and scrub land in Machynlleth.

They are grazing a former forestry plantation, which the trust has transformed into a reserve.

The buffalo are surviving on scrub, gorse, birch and willow - a diet native cows would probably refuse to eat, claims the wildlife trust.

The Asian water buffalo, bred near Welshpool, weigh about half a tonne each, and they are being used by other organisations to manage the land.

South and West Wales Wildlife Trust has used them to manage scrub land, while buffalo in Cheshire graze down dense rush growth to help an RSPB bird reserve.

Buffalo are more hardy than ordinary cattle and are being used as a grazing tool
Tony Senior, reserves officer at Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust

Tony Senior, reserves officer with Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust in Welshpool, said native breeds could suffer "health problems" if they were used to graze harsh pasture at the Cors Dyfi reserve.

The water buffalo, in contrast, graze indiscriminately, create muddy wallows and break up the ground with their hooves. This makes ideal habitats for birds such as lapwings.

Mr Senior said: "The reserve was previously a conifer plantation, but the trees have now been felled and the area is becoming a wildlife haven.

"The habitat at the site is made up of open water, swamp, bog, wet woodland, scrub and gorse.

"Buffalo are more hardy than ordinary cattle and are being used as a grazing tool. They like rougher vegetation and are good at eating scrub and gorse."

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