Grazed Pasture and Arable Land

Objectionable Mother Sheep

The croft land of North Ronaldsay is farmed mainly for beef cattle, with breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, Charolais and Simmental. A few farmers keep hill sheep as well as the North Ronaldsay sheep, of which the ewes and lambs are grazed in the summer. The land is therefore a mosaic of grazed pasture and fields for winter fodder production - mostly silage, hay and some crop. Silage is generally cut in June/July and the hay in July/August here, depending on weather. The crops grown are myrtle oats, a rare seed that is only found in North Ronaldsay and Sanday, bere, which is almost restricted solely to Orkney, and barley. Small patches of potatoes and other vegetables are also cultivated.

An increase in silage and decline in the amount of hay and crop grown in recent times has probably contributed to the demise of the Corncrake as a breeding bird in Orkney. Corncrake bred regularly on North Ronaldsay until 1987, then after a gap of 10 years, returned until 1999, but sadly none have been heard calling this year.

Waders like feeding in grazed fields and crop fields are good for birds like finches and buntings. Crops here are still harvested using traditional methods, with binders, stooked and then stacked.