Cattle on one of the best examples of a species-rich grassland in Northern Ireland have been fitted with cutting-edge GPS collars, which according to a wildlife trust, could prove to be a “game changer”.

More than 25 conservation cattle at Slievenacloy Nature Reserve, in the Belfast Hills in Northern Ireland have been fitted with the collars to help restore the designated grass land site and “boost biodiversity.

Slievenacloy Nature Reserve which is owned by Ulster Wildlife Trust, was most likely a sacred landscape during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and contains eight prehistoric burial monuments.

The site also features the remains of an old farmhouse dating back to 1833.

The nature reserve is grazed with traditional livestock including Irish moiled cattle from early summer to mid-winter.  

According to Ulster Wildlife conservation grazing “is an invaluable tool” in helping to restore and manage sensitive habitats, such as flower-rich grasslands, and also to enable wildlife to flourish. 

It said the collars were fitted on the cattle to guide them into carefully chosen areas of the 258-hectare area of special scientific interest site where grazing is most needed, and are carefully mapped out and controlled via an app.  

The collars work by sending out audio signals to move the herd.

But if an animal were to ignore the signal and gets too close to the boundary, a small electrical pulse is emitted to get them back on track.  

Andy Crory, nature reserves manager with Ulster Wildlife said: “This new technology is a game-changer in helping to restore parts of Slievenacloy Nature Reserve.

“The collars encourage the cattle to work harder for us as we can guide them into areas of rank vegetation that aren’t as palatable but which are in need of a bit of extra TLC in the form of extra grazing.  

“Already, the cattle have started to open up the grassland and increase the diversity of the habitat by making space for a greater variety of wildflowers, such as orchids”.

According to Crory grassland management through grazing also provides “all the things that the birds, butterflies, moths, and lizards that make Slievenacloy special, need to thrive.”