FARMERS are controlling cows with a GPS tracker that plays Waltzing Matilda when they get too close to a virtual fence.

The musical warning has allowed farmers to track their livestock via an app in a unique scheme developed with an environmental charity.

Blue Carbon Farming in Steart, Somerset, has begun working with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to allow cattle to graze in wetlands and saltmarsh for the first time in 30 years.

Andy Darch, 39, founded the company in 2023 with co-owners Matt Hilton and Sam Passmore, and says that the experience has been a "fantastic opportunity."

The areas had been previously thought to be too dangerous for cattle to graze, due to their treacherous terrain and proximity to the sea - but the farmers have begun utilising an app and NoFence collars to track the cows location and warn them away from danger.

If a cow approaches the "virtual fence" - the boundary determined by the farmers - its collar will play the tune Waltzing Matilda to warn it away from the area.

South West Farmer:

"We were approached by the WWT to see if we would graze some of the wetlands that they manage, and we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to try something new and a bit different," said Andy.

"We thought it was an exciting new project to sell beef directly to customers and see how we can help nature and sequester more carbon into the ground with the aid of cattle.

"When we’re out on some of the wetlands and on the saltmarsh, there’s no fencing, and the tide is coming in and out.

It’s always been considered too dangerous to graze in the wetlands, because you can lose cattle in the gripe, but with the app, it enables us to get out there.

South West Farmer:

"There are big washes and gripes that you could lose a car in, let alone a cow.

"What we do is set up the NoFence collars to make sure that the cattle are safe and don’t escape or get washed out to sea."

The scheme is also designed to benefit the wetlands and saltmarshes - as cattle graze on natural plants and grasses, root growth is stimulated, drawing carbon into the ground.

Natural waste from the cows also adds nutrients to the grass and plants, and provides a thriving environment for insects.

The area is managed by the WWT, who determine at which times of year and on which areas the farmers are allowed to graze their cattle.

"We graze with a lower stocking density – we’re not allowed to put as many animals on the marshes so that they don’t poach up the ground too much," Andy said.

"We’re only allowed on the land at certain times of year, and when the weather is conducive. We can graze from April until the end of October, and then for the rest of the time, the land is allowed to rest.

"Also, when it’s nesting season, the WWT are able to tell us that there are nests in certain places, so we’re able to protect the area around the nests.

"Cattle are quite good at not standing on nests, but if we can keep them away from the nests then they won’t disturb the birds."

Andy says that the response so far from customers has been "really positive," and believes that more sustainable cattle farming is an exciting step forward.

"Cattle are seen as not being very good for the environment, so we’re trying to show what you can do with cattle grazing," said Andy.

"We can manage where the cattle are grazing, so we can keep them away from areas with certain foliage.

"The healthier the wetland is, the more benefit it will do for the local wildlife and the flora and fauna."