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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2007, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Cow herd to be tracked from space
Cows grazing at Ingleborough Nature Reserve

A herd of cows in the Yorkshire Dales are to have their every move monitored by satellite in a conservation project.

Fifty cows on the Ingleborough Nature Reserve will wear electronic collars with a Global Positioning System (GPS).

Experts hope the devices will reveal where the cows go and what they eat, helping to preserve rare vegetation.

A national park spokesman said: "It's one of the first projects to use GPS on livestock - normally they are put on animals like polar bears and tigers."

The equipment will be able to pinpoint the exact position of the cattle at any one time, down to minute details such as whether a cow is grazing, standing still or moving.

Environmental impact

A spokesman for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said the project would help landowners and farmers to improve the management of the wildlife on their land by finding out where the cows go, when they go to certain areas and what they eat when they get there.

Paul Evans, manager of the nature reserve, said: "The cattle are free to roam over pretty large areas so, at any one particular time, we don't always know exactly where they are or what they are doing.

"The idea is to find out where they go and at what times of the day and the year. We can then analyse the vegetation and terrain in those areas - for example grassland, peat bog or scrub.

"That will tell us what they prefer to eat during the different seasons of the year and this will help us to assess their impact on the local ecology."

The information will help the reserve to develop management techniques to direct the cattle away from vulnerable areas and into others.

The scheme is the latest phase of a five-year Limestone Country Project, which aims to preserve rare plants and flowers by encouraging farmers to return to mixed livestock grazing using hardy, native cattle breeds.

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