Cows to help improve marsh habitat at Brandywine Creek State Park
WILMINGTON (June 15, 2011) – In an effort to restore the Freshwater Marsh Nature Preserve within Brandywine Creek State Park, DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation will borrow two cows from a Delaware farm to graze the area and help reduce the number of invasive plants.
The two Belted Galloway cows, from Belted Galloway Cows of Centerville, will be on loan for seven to eight weeks beginning later this month. They will graze a five-acre fenced area in the park’s nature preserve.
“The cows are being used for prescribed grazing, or restoration,” said Rob Line, Environmental Stewardship program manager, with the Division of Parks and Recreation. “The Belted Galloways are an ancient Scottish breed used to eating coarse grasses, which is why they will work so well on a site like this,” Line said.
The project is a partnership among Delaware State Parks, which owns the land, DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage program scientists, who will help monitor vegetation changes at the site, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provided the $23,500 funding to build the fence.
“This is new for Delaware, but not new for marsh restoration projects throughout the Northeast,” continued Line. “Very often, sheep, goats and other cow breeds are utilized for prescribed grazing.” Historic records show that dairy cows grazed the area during the 1940s.
The cows will suppress invasive plants – especially reed canary grass among others - by eating and crushing them since the weight of the cows breaks up the root mat. The black and white cows weigh approximately 1,200 pounds each. “Their grazing will be beneficial to Delaware’s native plants and animals, including rare species that are currently being compromised by the invasives,” Line said.
The cows will arrive after the fence is completed, expected by the end of June. Plans are for the cows to be used for seven to eight weeks during spring and summer months for the next few years. DNREC will monitor the marsh to determine how much grazing will be needed from year to year.