Livestock farming plays an important part in both the economy and the ecology of Eday. The farming of cattle and sheep has helped shape the character of our island, providing essential feeding areas throughout the year for wildlife especially birds and in particular the waders.
The climate on Eday and the peaty soil make it essential that the cattle are housed during the winter and therefore winter keep has to be conserved, mainly in the form of silage and hay. Some oats and barley are also grown as supplementary keep. In addition to this, a few folk keep poultry and wildfowl, and grow a variety of vegetables on a smaller scale.
The farming landscape is therefore a patchwork of fields, some for grazing sheep and cattle with others containing winter feed crops. You will see a variety of different sheep breeds including Cheviot Suffolk, Texel, Lleyn, Shetland and various crosses between these breeds. All the sheep on Eday are monitored by the Highland and Island Sheep Health Association (H.I.S.H.A.) helping to keep our stock healthy and to prevent the spread of disease. Cattle breeds may include Aberdeen Angus, Beef Shorthorn, Limousin, Charolais, Simmental, and Belgium Blue and as with the sheep all the cattle on Eday are monitored by a health scheme Orkney Livestock Association Hi- Health (O.L.A.)
Spring is the time when most lambs and calves are born so the fields become nursery areas. Sheep lamb on in-by grass fields in April/May, and also in May cows and calves, which were born inside, are turned out onto grass along with a bull that can be very protective of his herd, particularly at this time.
Some fields have been ploughed and sown with crops and others closed off for the conserving of grass for hay and silage for winter keep. Ploughing and cultivating the soil for new grass leys also takes place in the spring. Sheep are sheared during May and June. Silage will be ready to cut for harvesting from the middle of July when silage pits will be filled and round bales wrapped, this will be closely followed by the making of hay, weather permitting. Harvesting of the grain is also weather dependant and can start in September and run through until October. Byres/Cattle sheds are prepared for the cattle to be housed in November. Silage pits are opened up and the winter routine started. Cattle are clipped so they do not become over heated and feet are trimmed where necessary. Sheep are gathered into flocks ready for the rams (tups) in November/December.
There are a number of signposted walks and trails that provide an excellent means of seeing the wildlife and visiting archaeological and historical points of interest. (Leaflets with detailed information for each walk are available.) Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code means you also have the freedom to roam beyond these routes. In your travels you may come in to contact with farm animals, machinery or farm work in progress. To ensure your safety and allow the work of the farming community to continue unhindered, we ask that you follow a few simple guidelines,
For more information on any access issue please visit www.outdooraccessscotland.com
We hope you have an enjoyable time exploring our island.