Cambridge cow-grazing tradition under threat from council plans

Max Stephens
·2 min read
Local authorities currently offer a ‘pinder’ service to help cattle when they get into difficulties.     - Shutterstock
Local authorities currently offer a ‘pinder’ service to help cattle when they get into difficulties. - Shutterstock

A centuries-old tradition of allowing cattle to graze on Cambridge commons is under threat by new plans from the city’s council.

Cow breeds including Longhorn, Red Poll and Hereford graze an estimated 200 acres of land around the university city.

Local authorities currently offer a ‘pinder’ service to help cattle when they get into difficulties.

This is a common occurrence in the city with cows falling into the River Cam and being chased and bitten by dogs.

However, Cambridge City Council has proposed an end to that service outside working hours.

Farmers in Cambridge have reacted angrily to the proposal arguing they were not consulted properly about the decision and that the council already receives more than twice the £8,000 cost of the service through contributions from graziers and agricultural payments from the Government.

Angelika von Heimendahl, 59, a vet who has been grazing cattle on Midsummer Common for 15 years, said that graziers could not provide the service themselves.

Ms Von Heimendahl told The Times: "You would never be able to leave the house or go on holiday or to London at the weekend, you would only watch your phone to make sure that your cattle are OK.

“None of us have been consulted and none of us can see how it would work,” she added.

She said she felt the cattle had "always contributed to the feel of Cambridge" and that "people are amazed when they see them".

The council has said the service will remain in operation during working hours.

Stephen Wright,a first-generation farmer whose Longhorn cows have grazed in the city for over thirty years, said he would not be putting them out in Cambridge this year.

Mr Wright warned that the removal of the out-of-hours pinder service could endanger the lives of his cattle and local residents.

“It puts me in a situation where if I have a group of cattle on those commons and there are people with dogs chasing cattle around somebody could be trampled and I don’t want that on my conscience,” he said.

A spokesman for Cambridge City Council said it discussed the pinder service with graziers.

"All of those consulted broadly supported the proposal for animal owners to be responsible for responding to out-of-hours emergencies and where there are concerns about animal welfare".

"Under proposals to be discussed by councillors this week, the council would continue to support graziers during council operational hours."

Katie Thornburrow, executive councillor for planning policy and open spaces, added: "There is definitely a choice to be made at the council budget meeting on this at our Thursday evening meeting and we will consider in detail the comments and issues raised by all the graziers."