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HomeBeefDexter cows learn to associate musical beats with virtual fence
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Dexter cows learn to associate musical beats with virtual fence

Canny cows are tuning in to ‘moosical’ beats to protect an ancient hill fort from invaders.

A herd of Dexter cows has learnt to associate the sound of music with a virtual fence to help protect an Iron Age hill fort nestled in the Wye Valley.

They feast on different varieties of plants and berries and have learnt to associate musical beats, played through a solar-powered collar, with a virtual fence, which has even removed the need for traditional wooden posts and rails.

Many hundreds of years ago, Little Doward Hill Fort built in the 5th Century BC, near Whitchurch, provided protection for a prominent Iron Age war Lord from the likes of oncoming Anglo-Saxon warriors.

Now the biggest battle the Woodland Trust-owned site faces is against vegetation and invasive species sweeping over it.

Dexter cows

Richard Brown, Woodland Trust site manager said that it is “a win all around fo the site”.

“For nature and restoration, the cows are ideal grazers across a wide range of species.”
“They help spread seeds through their dung and gently move the soil around but without destruction.”

“For the fort itself, they are able to stop vegetation engulfing it. The virtual fencing technology, via an app, helps us to move the herd around, in effect moving the fence.”

“The cows are very friendly too so if people do visit, do not be scared – they may just want to come up to you and say hello.”

Although only a small part of Little Doward Woods is ancient, it is an incredibly important habitat, providing refuge for many plants and animals, some of which are only found in isolated pockets across the UK.


Little Doward Woods forms part of the Wye Valley Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Upper Wye Gorge Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

There are numerous veteran oak and beech trees here, plus rare, wildlife.

It is of national importance for its saproxylic beetles, which need dead or decaying wood to complete their life cycle, including the incredibly rare Cosnard’s net-winged beetle.

The high number of ancient and veteran trees at the wood provide the deadwood and associated fungi these species rely on.

Read our article: ‘We are happy with our long-leg Dexter at 400-500 kg’

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