Driving through the Burren in Ireland I saw an amazing phenomena. Cows that seem to grow fat on pastures that are mostly rock.

I had to find out what that is all about.

The Burren is a limestone plateau in Ireland. There is very little soil, mostly just rock.

In most places in the world, cattle are moved to the mountains in the summer, then to the lowlands in the winter. But it is the opposite in the Burren. In the winter, the limestone remains warm. Water from streams and springs seeping through the limestone is rich in calcium. The lowlands get a lot of rain and the pastures mire in mud. So, for centuries, cattle have been moved up to the plateau every winter.

This is an ancient tradition that came under threat. Conservationists thought the cattle might damage the ancient stone artifacts and the rare flowers and plants that grow in the area. So, they studied it. Winter grazing actually protects the ancient ruins. Otherwise the plants would grow over and damage them. They also provide fertilizer. Cattle are part of the ecosystem of the Burren.

Cows Grazing on the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Cows Grazing on the Burren

Cows Grazing on the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Cows Grazing on the Burren

Cows Grazing on the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Cows Grazing on the Burren

Cows Grazing on the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Cows Grazing on the Burren

Cows Grazing on the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Cows Grazing on the Burren

Cows Grazing on the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Cows Grazing on the Burren

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