From June 17th 2015, cattle will be out on the Forest in the area between the National Cat Centre and the old airstrip (see map here). For the first time on Ashdown Forest, they will be confined by a system of ‘invisible’ fencing.
‘Invisible’ fencing is derived from the security system used for domestic dogs, where a cable is buried around the perimeter of a property and the dog fitted with a collar which gives a mild electric shock if it approaches the cable too closely. This has now been adapted for use with cattle.
A transmitter cable up to 2000m long is either laid on the ground surface or buried to form an enclosed loop. A signal generator is connected to this loop. The livestock are fitted with a collar which picks up the signal from the cable and produces, at around 2m distance, an audible warning. If the animal continues to approach the cable, the audible warning is replaced by a mild electric shock, though in practice the animals quickly learn the layout of their enclosure and rarely enter the ‘live’ zone.
The advantage of invisible fencing for Ashdown Forest would be that it would allow us to graze more of the heathland without creating a visual intrusion with conventional fencing. Grazing is vital if we are to maintain the internationally rare heathland habitat. This system has been trialled in Epping Forest, a site with higher human impact than Ashdown Forest and surrounded by roads that carry more than 26,000 vehicles per day.
Our trial area is very wet and difficult to walk through and so has few desire lines made by the public. As such, the cattle grazing should not be an inconvenience. Whilst you may walk through the enclosure you need to be careful with dogs around cattle and we would advise that it is safest not to walk a dog through the herd. Our area does not cross any of the main rides.
Signs are in place to alert the public to the presence of cattle; please see the guide on our website for advice on what to do if you encounter livestock. As always, the ‘4Cs’ of our Dog Walkers’ Code of Conduct should be observed. In particular there is a grave risk to the health of cattle from dog droppings. This is because dogs act as the host to a parasite called Neospora. Eggs (oocysts) are shed by infected dogs in their faeces and are a source of infection for cattle. Infected cattle will abort their calves or, if the calf is born alive, it will already be infected with the disease. So do please pick up after your dog. Also never allow your pet to chase livestock, if you are not in full control of your animal it needs to be on a lead around cattle.